March 20, 2023

Unanswered Questions About “Bat Gates?

A few days ago I was reading a press release put out by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) about how the department just built the first steel and concrete “Bat Gate” designed to keep people out of caves where bats hibernate.

Why keep people out? The release says, “Scientists have discovered that white-nose syndrome is primarily passed from bat to bat or from hibernacula surfaces to bats, but can be spread by people because spores of the fungus may cling to clothing, backpacks, and shoes. When people visit caves and mines during any time of year, they could transport the fungus to uninfected areas…” (emboldening added)

Looking at the photos in the press release, it appears that there is an awful lot of habitat destruction taking place during the construction. Did these workers “unknowingly” get fungus on them and transport it to uninfected areas? What did they do to make sure this didn’t happen?

Whose land is this being built on? If not public land, did MDIFW obtain permission to do this?

This seems a bit of a drastic measure to undertake considering the “can be,” “may,” and “could” descriptions of the possible human role of spreading a disease that is natural and perhaps is doing the job it is intended to do – keep the population of bats in check. We sometimes think we are so smart but are we failing to realize that in our personal desire to protect any and all species of wildlife, maybe we are not doing the wildlife any favors.

It should be in the forefront of the minds of biologists at MDIFW considering what they have discovered or at least pretend to have discovered, about moose and winter ticks. Growing and protecting moose populations creates a situation where winter ticks thrive. Perhaps the risk of human transport of this fungus is insignificant compared to the bats themselves. If numbers aren’t kept at healthy levels, Biology 101 teaches us or used to anyway, that disease occurs which in turn reduces the population.

In addition to what should be obvious questions, placing this gate over the entrance to a cave, has anyone asked the question as to what other species of wildlife that may use this habitat is being denied and what threats this imposes on them?