ALBANY, NY (WNY News Now) – New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation is rising awareness about the critical role of bats in our environment.
In honor of “Bat Week,” which kicks off on Monday, the DEC encouraged outdoor enthusiasts to refrain from visiting caves and mines during the fall and winter months.
Bats spend the winter hibernating in these underground cavities where relatively constant, warm temperatures protect them from harsh outside winter temperatures above ground.
Human visitation in the winter to these “hibernacula” disturbs the bats, and is especially harmful since the arrival of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed more than 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in the state.
“Bats play an important role in our environment, helping control insect populations,” Commissioner Seggos said in a statement. “With Halloween on people’s minds, DEC is urging outdoor adventurers to protect New York’s bats by avoiding caves and mines altogether. Even the quietest cave visits will disturb bats hunkering down for the winter.”
If bats are disturbed during hibernation, they raise their body temperature, depleting crucial fat reserves. This stored fat is the only source of energy available to the bats until the weather warms in spring and insects become readily available.
The more frequently bats are disturbed, the less likely they are to survive the long winter months underground without eating.
DEC reminds the public to follow all posted notices restricting access to caves and mines. If explorers do venture out and discover bats hibernating in a cave, and urges them to leave quickly and quietly to minimize disturbance.
Bat Week is observed each year through Oct. 31, and is organized by representatives from conservation groups and government agencies in the U.S. and Canada.