Warmer-than-normal temperatures may be linked to the deaths of thousands of local bats, state Wildlife Pathologist Ward Stone said Tuesday.
Federal and state officials last week asked cavers to stay out of caves known to house bats while an investigation into the die-off ensued.
Between 8,000 and 11,000 bats were found dead where they hibernate near Albany last year, and wildlife officials last month found bats dead or dying in a Schoharie County cave and in a cave in Vermont.
A white fungus, called fusarium, surrounded the noses of some of the bats both living and dead. Officials feared the fungus might play some role in the deaths and therefore asked cavers to stay out of known bat caves in case the fungus is spread by humans.
Stone on Tuesday said samples of the fungus were sent to a federal lab, but for the most part, the fungus – a common one found on plants and in soil – does not appear to be killing the bats.
Stone said he was getting calls Tuesday about bats flying around the Capital Region. Bats should she be hibernating right now.
But the warm temperature might be waking them up, Stone said.
“The bats are starving. They have burned up their energy supplies and they are ready to go get something to eat, I think, but there’s little to nothing available because it’s winter,” Stone said.
Stone said studies are ongoing to determine whether the fungus or any contaminants are contributing to the die-off as well.