New study aims to increase bat population at the Pine Bush

January 18, 2017 07:06 PM

GUILDERLAND - When you hear Albany Pine Bush, the Karner Blue Butterfly immediately comes to mind.  But now the preserve is looking to protect something else that flies - bats.

"Bats have an aura that people fear but bats are incredibly important to functioning ecosystems," explains Albany Pine Bush Preserve ecologist Neil Gifford.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife funded study determined there are five types of bats that live in or visit the Albany Pine Bush.  Two are members of the population wiped out, in recent years, by a fungus called White Nose Syndrome.  The disease killed off more than 90 percent of brown bats in our area and now that researchers know they feed and breed in the the Pine Bush, steps can be taken to attract them with insects and roosting areas so brown bats can head into their fall and winter cave hibernation season healthy.

"The best thing we can do is manage the habitat and maintain good forage," believes Gifford.

The hope, also, is to better support the Pine Bush's population of tree bats.  They're less vulnerable to White Nose Syndrome and could offset the disease's devastating effects on the ecosystem.

"Only time will tell if tree bats can compensate...we are adding bats as a priority," said Gifford.

A fully functioning ecosystem translates to health species...of all kinds.

"When you think of the size of the bat population and the sudden and dramatic decline of bats, we should all be concerned about what that means," adds Giffords.

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Abigail Bleck

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