Bat die-off continues

White-nose syndrome, the disease decimating bat populations in the Northeast and beyond, is believed to have spread to all known bat caves in New York, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The fungal disease has reduced the populations of some bat species in the state by 90 percent since it was first documented in 2008.

Bat with white-nose syndrome. Photo by Larry Master.
Bat with white-nose syndrome. Photo by Larry Master.

The Graphite Mine in Hague, once the largest hibernaculum in the state, has been especially hard hit. The number of little brown bats has fallen from 185,000 to 2,000, DEC says. Two other species, the northern bat and the endangered Indiana bat, have disappeared from the mine entirely. Another, the tri-colored bat, has been reduced to a lone specimen.

DEC surveyed hibernacula early this year. “Caves and mines that avoided infection in the early years of the disease, perhaps by chance, are now infected,” acting DEC Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz said in a news release. “This year’s survey included hibernation sites that had not been visited by DEC in decades. What we found was disturbing. We now have sampled sites that represent the full range of environmental conditions across the state—and none have been spared. It is likely the sites not yet inspected are infected as well.”

But the populations held steady in two caves in the Capital Region, albeit at at roughly 10 percent of their pre-disease count. “Infected animals were present at these two sites, so it’s too early to say the decline here has halted,” said DEC bat biologist Carl Herzog, “but these two caves represent the most hopeful results in an otherwise negative report.”

DEC is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find ways to treat the disease and check its spread.

Click here to learn more about white-nose syndrome.

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Deb Collett says

    I love bats. Used to have them on my property and was able to watch them fly about at dusk if I looked in just the right spot. Have not seen them in a long time. It makes me sick to hear this news and know that there seems to be nothing we can do about this.

  2. Cindy says

    I just finished reading a gem of a book:

    “Wild Animal Ways” by Ernest Thompson Seton, one of the original founders of the Boy Scouts of America, Published in 1925. He was concerned about hunters killing bats and foresaw the possible disappearance of the Great Northern Bat. He called them “brownies”. A chapter, (more like a mini novel) of this book is devoted to a story of one of these bats. I went on line to check about his description in detail of how the bat hunted its food. It is fascinating. If you get a chance to read any of his books, they are charming. He has his own drawings. Some of them feature his wife’s drawings. They are stories of animals, composites of the species and their daily behavior, often based on actual individual animals known to the author.

  3. North Country Rambler says

    Unfortunately, we should not be surprised. We used to have swarms of bats out on our pond in Essex County every summer night. They have been reduced to the point where seeing one is now an event worthy of note. It did not happen often this summer. I find it pretty scary that we still do not know what is causing this “white nose” syndrome.


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