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Bats need protection too

February 4, 2010
The Daily Mining Gazette

The lowly, sometimes-feared bat clearly does not compete well against the polar bear in terms of arousing public opinion in favor of action by the government. That is a shame, because some bats are in much more trouble than polar bears face from global warming.

An apparently new malady, "white nose disease," is killing bats by the hundreds of thousands in Eastern states. Researchers still do not know what causes it. They do not know how it is carried into the caves in which many bats live - and now die.

Since the disease was noticed first in New England in 2006, it has ravaged the populations of some bats. That has prompted some states - and even many individual landowners - to close caves to the public. That is being done because there is some fear that humans may carry the disease into caves.

Some caves on U.S. Forest Service land have been closed, too. Last week the Center for Biological Diversity urged the Interior Service to close all caves on federal land, in order to protect bats.

Bats are more important than most people realize, especially because they help control some insect populations. A complete die-off of some species - a possibility because of white-nose disease - would be an environmental catastrophe.

Clearly, more priority needs to be granted to them. They may not be as appealing as polar bears - but they are important.



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