The bat is dying in Quebec. The WNS decimating whole populations in a single exposure. Never have we seen such a staggering decline in an animal group. The small flying mammal is now threatened with extinction, with consequences that barely measured. Batman himself could not save him.
“In the US, we saw hibernacula emptied to 99% of their bats, notes Julie Faure-Lacroix, chiroptérologue and student-researcher in the forest of Laval University Study Centre. In Quebec, the inventories carried suggest a 95% mortality. “Here, the largest hibernacula have 25 000 specimens.
The winter 2010
The white-nose syndrome (SMB) has hit hard the Quebec caves during winter 2010. “The contagion occurs in the winter because the fungus that causes the infection needs cold and wet to proliferate” notes Julie Faure-Lacroix. Throughout eastern North America is affected: 25 US and 5 Canadian provinces. The dead is estimated at 6 million.
The mycelium covers white muzzle, ears and wings. The infection causes itching and frequent awakenings. “Bats hibernate from 150 to 220 days, they have a limited energy reserves. Each clock takes a lot of energy, “said Richard Brunet, environmental consultant and passionate bats for 20 years. Too weak and hungry, bats do not survive until spring. In February, this is the carnage.
Five endangered species
Quebec has eight bat species, five of which are cave. It is they who are threatened by the SMB. In December 2014, the federal government designated the little brown bat, northern bat and eastern pipistrelle species “endangered.” The big brown bat and the bat pygmy East also affected, resist better.
Fungal infection is spreading at high speed, 300 km / year. The first case in North America, was listed in 2006 in the cave of Howe, in upstate New York. “The fungus, native to Europe, was brought by amateur cavers whose equipment was contaminated,” suggests Julie Faure-Lacroix.
But US researchers managed to stop contamination in some caves through a bacteria (Rhodococcus rhodochrous). The treatment, experimental, could prevent the spread in western North America, where bats are not yet infected. In Quebec, it is probably too late.
As for the US, we are now seeing the population to stabilize. “It gives hope. Lonely, away from the group, may be less affected. Is there hope in introversion? “Says Ms. Faure-Lacroix. The catch: bats live 30 years and have a baby a year. “The population will recover very slowly. It will take 200 years before seeing the bats too many, “said Richard Brunet.
Agriculture in peril?
It is feared an effect on the ecosystem. Bats eat 600 insects per hour, up to the equivalent of its weight. Several of his prey would be detrimental to agriculture and forestry. In the US, the SMB would have resulted in additional costs of $ 4 billion in pesticides. However, insecticides already constitute a significant threat to the bat …
The situation is so critical that the government is seeking the help of the public to identify sites where bats colonies are present. It wants to promote the installation of dormitories. The SMB hits hard, but habitat loss, wind farms and communication towers also threaten the hoary bat, the silver-haired bat and the red bat. Information on the new website: chauve-souris.ca .
Better to avoid the jokes involving a bat! In one documented case, a young man died after being bitten by a bat … hidden in his glass of beer. About 1% of bats are carriers of the rabies virus, deadly to humans. If on (even if the animal is dead), we telephone to Info-Santé 8-1-1.