Biologists Fear Passing Coronavirus Onto Fragile Bat Population
For several years now, the bat population in Maine has been under quite a strain. Sadly, due to White Nose Syndrome, the bat population in Maine has seen some pretty dramatic decreases. And it's easy to see. Out at my camp in the summertime in years past, the bats were everywhere. Almost to the point of nuisance.
But a few years back, we noticed less and less out there. And now, the last two summers, we haven't seen any at all. But these days, biologists are starting to worry about the very real possibility of introducing coronavirus into the bat population.
Because the bat population is so fragile, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has decided to handle bats in as safe a manner as possible. Up to and including wearing gloves, masks, or even full protective gear when handling specimens.
Nate Webb, director of Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s wildlife division, said this to the BDN:
The concern right now is greatest with bats, for a variety of reasons, one of those being bats have recently suffered a dramatic population decline in Maine and across most of the United States due to white-nose syndrome. There’s a concern this could be another disease that could lead to population declines, though at this point there’s no conclusive evidence either way — just a concern.
But that concern is making them do whatever is necessary to eliminate passing the virus onto animals. There is no specific evidence from the federal CDC that shows a transmission at this time, state authorities just don't want to risk it.
There have been a few isolated cases of transmission to animals. The Bronx Zoo have a sick tiger, and in China and Belgium, there' have been a few cases of sick house pets like cats and dogs. But, those were believed to have contracted the virus from their owners, and that the virus is not transmittable to humans from animals.
At any rate, because of all these and other variables, wildlife officials have decided to err on the side of caution. And at a time like this, that's unbelievably important. Besides, we need these bats! It's been a messy, wet spring and the mosquito population will likely be robust. So maybe a few extra bats really could help us out....