BAR HARBOR, Maine — Bats are often thought of as scary, dirty and disease-ridden, but they are lovely and fascinating to Ann Rivers.
The 62-year-old Rivers runs Acadia Wildlife Center, one of two full-time state-licensed facilities in Maine that rehabilitates many kinds of wild animal but specializes in saving bats. She nurses about 50 ailing bats annually brought to her by game wardens and anybody else who finds them.
The rehabilitation is an important part of maintaining a vital species, she said.
Notice an increase in mosquitoes? Bat deaths have contributed to it, Rivers said. Two species once common to Maine, the little brown and northern long-eared, are now endangered. A third, the Eastern small-footed bat, is on a state threatened-species list.
“Bats as a group eat billions of mosquitoes and agricultural pests. A single bat can eat 500 mosquitoes in an hour. That means that they are among nature’s foremost defenses against the spread of disease,” Rivers said Friday.
Bats today are under attack. Since 2007, millions of bats in 31 states, including Maine, have died from White Nose Syndrome, a disease caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects hibernating bats’ muzzles, ears and wings, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Maine’s other full-time bat rehabilitator, Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, had a busy spring with bats. Since May, 11 were treated, though none for the syndrome. Yet, the center had very few little brown bats, a potential sign of the disease that Diana Dumais, a wildlife specialist at the center, called alarming.
“So many are dying off,” Dumais said.
Anyone who finds a sick bat or has one trapped in their home can call Rivers at 288-4960. She said she is happy to advise them or arrange transport of the bat to her.
“It really doesn’t matter where they are, because we get calls from as far away as Portland,” Rivers said. “I want to save as many bats as I can. I love bats, personally. They can do so many cool things. Pretty good-looking, too.”
Acadia Wildlife Center is raising $10,000 for a flight cage to help bats rebuild their wings at save-Maine-bats at gofundme.com.
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