White Nose Syndrome

The gloved hand of a biologist holds a little brown bat in Vermont.
Jane Lindholm / VPR File

A muggy summer evening in Vermont, in a swampy area, just as the sun is going down and the mosquitoes are thick in the air might not sound like a good place to hang out. But it's ideal if you're a little brown bat. Or a bat researcher. 

Tom Rogers / Vt. Dept. Fish & Wildlife

A crisis in the form of a mysterious disease called white nose syndrome threatening Vermont’s bat population may be stabilizing. 

The alarming number of bats killed by this disease in recent years prompted the state to list three of Vermont’s nine species as endangered, but now perhaps, some good news that the rate of the decline may be slowing, even as scientists race against time to find a way to reverse the trend of bat die-off.  

A Vermont environmental group says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to protect a once-common species of bat through the Endangered Species Act.

The Richmond-based Center for Biological Diversity says the service has proposed granting Endangered Species Act protection to the northern long-eared bat, a species that has been devastated by the disease known as white-nose syndrome

But the service declined to recommend protection for the eastern small-footed bat.

Photo/Scott Darling, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department

It sounds like something out of a biologist's Mission Impossible: last fall, 15 hibernating bats were taken from a cave in Dorset, and transported in the back of a van to an abandoned military bunker in far northern Maine. They were left to hibernate there for the winter...watched over by motion detector cameras. The mission: to see if the bats could be saved from white nose syndrome. They called it: The Bunker Project.