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MN decreasing bat population could spark rise in insects, pests

MINNESOTA– In Minnesota, there’s a population of animals spiraling toward extinction, cave and mine dwelling bats.   The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is warning of a major wildlife imbalance, with serious consequences for us all.

Those flying creatures you could typically see flapping through the night sky are dropping at a rapid rate throughout the state. The reason? Partially due to a fungal disease called White-Nose Syndrome, a disease that is harmful and usually fatal to hibernating bats.

The Minnesota DNR recently completed surveys showing massive declines in bat populations across the state, including our area in just the last 4 years.

A 90-percent plunge in the population was found at Soudan Underground Mine on the iron range,  where the disease was first confirmed in the state. A 94-percent decline was observed at Mystery Cave in southeastern Minnesota.

The problem here is that bats are major players when it comes to helping control the insect population.

Minnesota Biological Survey supervisor/mammalogist, Gerda Nordquist says, “information we’ve gotten from some landowners that in the past have always seen bats flying around at night outside their yards, they said, last summer, they said we’re just not seeing the bats we normally see and they also mention the mosquitos are horrible. It looks like we are at rock bottom now. It’s hard to say we’re going to get much lower than we are. So maybe in the years forward, we’ll start to see the return of some individuals.”

White-nose syndrome is named for the white fungal growth observed on infected bats. It is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.

But along with mosquitoes and other biting insects,  bats also eat large numbers of moths.

Some moths can damage farm crops and vegetable gardens, and bat losses could lead to increases in pesticide use.


Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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