Richard Hurd (CC BY 2.0)

Series: Wisconsin's Bats And White-Nose Syndrome

Bats are both familiar and exotic, and inspire intense emotions among people who encounter them. Beyond their cultural status, though, many types of bats play an important economic role in agriculture and tourism by feeding on copious numbers of insects. Wisconsin lies within the range of at least eight bat species, with half migrating south in winter while the remainder hibernate in caves, mines and structures. Hibernating species face an unparalleled threat from an invasive fungus that causes a disease called white-nose syndrome. But Wisconsin is also a center of scientific efforts to save these species. Legions of volunteers collect crucial data about the number and health of the state's bats, and scientists are working to develop a vaccine against the deadly fungus.
How can all of the state's tiny, elusive nocturnal flyers be counted? That's not possible. But the downward spiral of several bat species in Wisconsin can be tracked through the work of passionate conservation professionals, specialized technology and, crucially, legions of enthusiastic volunteers.
Wisconsin scientists are hopeful that a raccoon virus may help deliver North America's hibernating bats from potential extinction.