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Posted on February 3rd, 2023 in Wildlife | No Comments »

Despite their name, Indiana bats are found in more than 20 states. The species was first found in southern Indiana’s Wyandotte Caves where they live in close, social groups. During the winter, up to 500 bats can huddle for warmth underground within a single square foot. Their scientific name, Myotis sodalis, is actually Latin for “mouse ear companion.” While that companionship has helped Indiana bats survive for generations, it is now facilitating the spread of a deadly disease that is devastating their population.

First documented in 2006, white-nose syndrome spreads rapidly. It has killed millions of North American bats over the past decade. Named after a powdery white fungus that grows on the hairless parts of bats, white-nose syndrome spreads on surfaces and through bat-to-bat contact.

Image of Indiana Bat

Photos provided by: Caroline Byrne, Bat Ecologist

“Bats spend a lot of time sleeping and really shut down when they hibernate in caves,” said Patrick Zollner, professor of quantitative ecology. During hibernation, bats lower their body temperature and metabolic rate, increasing their susceptibility to white-nose syndrome.

The fungus causes behavior changes in bats that make them more active than usual, burning the fat they need to survive and killing the vast majority of those infected.

“One reason bat populations are so sensitive is they are not prolific breeders like other small mammals,” said Zollner. Indiana bats give birth to a single pup each summer, making it hard for their numbers to rebound.

Though the effects of the population decline are visible, specifics are hard to determine. This fall, Sally Martinez, a graduate student in Zollner’s lab, began work to unravel the impact.

For full article please visit Unexpected Plants and Animals of Indiana: Indiana Bats.

If you have any questions regarding trees, forests, wildlife, wood products or other natural resource topics, feel free to contact us by using our Ask an Expert web page.

Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE) Highlights: Bats, Video, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) YouTube Channel
Bats in the Belfry, Purdue Extension – FNR Got Nature? Blog
Ask An Expert: Bats on the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE), Video, Purdue Extension – FNR Facebook
Bats in Indiana, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR)
Bat Houses, Bat Conservation International
Creating a Wildlife Habitat Management Plan for Landowners, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
The Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE): Indiana Forestry and Wildlife, The Education Store
HEE, YouTube Playlist, Purdue Extension – FNR
HEE – Wildlife Responses to Timber Harvesting, The Education Store

Pat Zollner, Professor Wildlife Science
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Robert Chad Campbell, Writer
College of Agriculture

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