When you think about Halloween, one of the first things that comes to mind might be the bat, which is commonly associated with All Hallows’ Eve. However, on Saturday, October 27 the South Fork Natural History Museum (SoFo) will host a non-spooky special event that focuses on the Northern Long-eared Bat on Long Island.
For the past five years, Ph.D. candidate Samantha Hoff has been working as a wildlife technician for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the field of bat conservation. The Ph.D. student at the University of Albany has been studying the northern long-eared bat populations across coastal communities in the northeast, including Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.
She will speak about her findings during Persistence of the Northern Long-eared Bat on Long Island: A Source of Hope for a Threatened Species, a lecture at SoFo.
“We may only think of bats as a flitting presence against the light of the moon on a dark night, or as a Halloween icon, in reality the decline of a migratory species like the northern long-eared bat could have unforeseen effects on widespread ecosystems,” noted Melanie Meade, Education Coordinator at the South Fork Natural History Museum.
The northern long-eared bat used to be a common species, however now it’s rare to come across one. This is a result of crippling population decline caused by white-nose syndrome. The invasive fungal disease, which is considered one of the worst wildlife diseases in modern times, began to sicken the species in 2006 and since then has killed millions of bats across North America, leading to a federal listing of Threatened in 2015.
“Researchers call the disease ‘white-nose syndrome’ (WNS) because of the visible white fungal growth on infected bats’ muzzles and wings. This cold-loving fungus infects bats during hibernation, when the bats reduce their metabolic rate and lower their body temperature to save energy over winter,” the National Park Service notes. “Hibernating bats affected by WNS wake up to warm temperatures more frequently, which results in using up fat reserves and then starvation before spring arrives.”
While the trend is alarming, recent evidence has revealed that populations off the coast of the northeastern US are persevering even though they are being exposed to the disease.
Admission to Persistence of the Northern Long-eared Bat on Long Island: A Source of Hope for a Threatened Species is free and reserving a spot in advance is required.
South Fork Natural History Museum & Nature Center is located at 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. For more information, visit sofo.org.