Letter to the editor: Bat boosting efforts praised
On Sept. 28, 2023, the Addison Independent ran an article entitled “Endangered bat habitat conserved.” On Oct. 19, 2023, the paper ran a second article — “Help save our native Vermont bats.” Given my love of bats the articles made me incredibly happy. In fact they made my heart sing. These much maligned, often misunderstood creatures are just another example of evolution’s most divine and brilliant work. By way of evolution bats are able to navigate in a way and time humans are unable to do, despite our purported superior intelligence and problem-solving capability.
Something to consider … You’re in the middle of nowhere. You have no navigation equipment. Your cell phone has died. You’re really, really hungry. It’s the middle of the night and pitch black. Now what do you do? Not a problem if you’re a bat!
Another thing to consider — bats perform an enormous environmental service. If anyone has had a problem with mosquitos this past summer … bats are your best friend! Time to put up a bat house! As mentioned in the Sept. 28 article, bats eat “a variety of nighttime insects, moth flies, mosquitoes.” What the articles failed to mention is, “A single bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquito-sized insects each hour. And approximately 6,000-8,000 each and every night … including crop-destroying insects!”
As was also indicated in the articles bat populations across the U.S. and Canada have plummeted. The first article indicates the major driver for this decline is white-nose syndrome (WNS). But equally if not more importantly population declines are the result of habitat destruction due to urbanization, forestry and conversion of land to agriculture. And … pesticide and herbicide application kills the insects that bats feed on. And … most of us realize stress, especially over the long term, has a deleterious effect on our immune system, diminishing our ability to combat infection and disease. Biologists, especially small mammal biologists, are suggesting a similar correlation exists within bat populations … between stress the incidence of WNS. In other words if your habitat — your home, your young, your food supply — is being impinged upon there is a greater likelihood you and the other members of the colony will be susceptible to disease.
The efforts of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department are to be applauded. Except — and this will be denied by all involved — a known, critical endangered bat habitat … a corridor located the length of Schoolhouse Hill Road, going up onto Forest Ridge Road, and extending through Burnham Woods, onto Munson Road and further west was decimated because of expansion at the local airport. Expansion occurred not because it was needed. In fact, there was never any real evidence presented that any expansion at the airport was warranted. It was all about money. The federal government offered it. The state of Vermont took it. And the town of Middlebury allowed it to happen without any meaningful opposition.
True, recently the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has been monitoring bat activity along Munson Road. It’s unfortunate, however, that the department has little if any historical data with which to make a meaningful comparison.
To reiterate, conservation of valuable bat habitat by Vermont Fish & Wildlife is laudable. The fact that the same department turned a blind eye to known bat habitat in East Middlebury is not.
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