WATERBURY, VT -- Biologists from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department are seeking information on bat colonies in Rutland County.
The department is asking for reports of bats living in attics, barns, churches, garages, bat houses, or other buildings in Rutland County to gain an understanding of the number of bat colonies remaining, particularly colonies of little brown bats, a species devastated by White-nose Syndrome. Two of Vermont's bat species, the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat, are now state-endangered as a result of this disease.
"While we are interested in reports of bat colonies throughout the state, we have selected Rutland County as our study area to monitor the number of little brown bat colonies remaining," said Alyssa Bennett, wildlife technician with the department.
Two of Vermont's bat species, the little brown bat and the big brown bat, are commonly found living in man-made structures such as attics, barns, and churches. Biologists are hoping to monitor these populations over time or, if the bats must be moved, to encourage best management practices that will prevent bats from being harmed.
"We need to get the word out that Vermont's bats are in danger and that we must all work together to protect the few that remain," adds Bennett.
Protective measures include the recent listing of the little brown bat as endangered in Vermont, providing Best Management Practice guidelines for removing unwanted bats without harm, collecting reports of bat colonies, and allowing for the take of bats that pose a rabies threat.
"A little knowledge can save a lot of bats. Once homeowners understand that the visitors in their attic may be a group of female bats seeking a warm place to raise young, they become more sympathetic."
Bennett adds that people are more willing to hire an exclusion professional, to erect a bat house, or even to let the bats stay where they are after learning more about these small mammals and the challenges they face.
Bennett works with homeowners to investigate colony reports and provide technical assistance to address their concerns or questions.
"I'm continually impressed at how Vermonters are responding to this crisis. Rather than thinking of bats as pests, people refer to the colony in their attic as 'Our bats.' In a time when bat populations are threatened by this disease, the change in public perception may ultimately help Vermont's bats survive."
If you have bats living in your home, barn, or workplace please fill out a bat colony report on Fish and Wildlife's website by going to www.vtfishandwildlife.com
and clicking on "You Can Help Vermont's Bats," or call 802-786-0098. The new webpage also includes information on Vermont bats and the current status of White-nose Syndrome, as well as guidelines for dealing with unwanted bats or putting up your own bat house.