BENTON, La. -- They are not one of the more common sightings you encounter in our area. Bats usually only come out at night and do not have a great number of dwellings close to homes in urban areas.
But there is a biological concern that the bat population in Louisiana may come under attack from an unusual disease. So it wasn’t a stretch to learn that when the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries set about to conduct a statewide study of bats and the potential for disease they turned to the bat man of Bossier, Randy Fulco. He's been tabbed by the department to assist the study.
“Got an email by someone or forwarded my name … and they are investigating the white nose fungus that's been killing bats. They haven't detected it in Louisiana, they have in Texas and Arkansas, and two biology agents came up here to look at my houses, took a dead bat with them,” Fulco said.
LDWF state veterinarian Jim LaCour provided insight about the effort to study bat populations and white nose fungus.
“Came about or came in fruition in North America back in 2006 on the East Coast. This fungus got in some large caves up in the northeast region of the country and killed over 6 million bats,” LaCour said.
This raises quite an alarm with the bat population under siege. Bats eat a lot of insects like mosquitos. Plus, there are agriculture benefits from bats which saves farmers billions of dollars in pesticide. This white nose fungus is no threat to humans but is easily transferred from bat to bat.
"Yeah, they are so close in proximity that's it's transferred just immediately among a bat house or ones beside it. So it's real easy in a cave or even in this case to take out, wipeout the colony,” Fulco said.
The department has teams checking culverts and bridges in the ArkLaTex to get a bat count. Recounts at a later time will hopefully determine if the bat population is decreasing due to this disease.
Bats deaths in the summer are few but due to hot weather. It's the cooler weather deaths that cause most concern.
“If you see dead bats in the wintertime those are the ones that we really want to see for white nose syndrome. And once again of course if anyone is bitten by a bat, accidentally, they are handling it, whatever, gets inside their house or bites them accidentally, please keep the bat, call us and we will get that animal from you for rabies testing,” LaCour said.
In the meantime, the public should be aware of these intriguing creatures who are for the most part harmless to humans. As for Fulco, his job has just begun in fronting an awareness campaign.
“They are wanting to get a feel of populations in Louisiana, or people who have them like me, are we seeing a number dropping every year,” said Fulco. “… I’m probably gonna be one of the people around Louisana that's gonna keep on going records.”
LDWF has a questionnaire and form that be filled-out by anyone to help with this bat study. Download that form here.