The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced this week it will be instituting new measures in certain state forests where federally endangered bats are found.
The new measures place restrictions on the cutting of standing dead trees along roads. Standing dead trees are important habitats for bats which use them to roost and rear their young in the cavities and loose bark.
“We’ve had a tremendous loss of bats in Pennsylvania,” said DCNR natural resource program specialist Ryan Reed. “White nose syndrome and other factors have caused up to a 90% loss in some cases.”
Firewood cutting and harvesting will be limited on designated roads in several state forests including Bald Eagle, Forbes, Rothrock and William Penn forests now through Aug. 31. It will also be limited on designated roads in Bald Eagle, Pinchot and Rothrock state forest districts between Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, as well as between April 1 and May 14, 2022.
“DCNR understands that firewood is an important source of fuel for locals. We are providing this guidance to help ensure those who rely on firewood are able to collect it without disturbing the habitats of these bats at critical times during their lifecycle,” state forester Ellen Shultzabarger said in a press release.
“By protecting these more, we are also preventing more human impact on those areas,” said Reed. “Without a chainsaw being started in the woods as often, it allows local populations of all animals to not be under as much stress.”
Bats are essential in managing insects for forest health. In Pennsylvania, bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in an hour and consume up to 25% of their body mass in a single feeding.
“The two species we are most concerned with are the Northern Long-Eared Bat and the Indiana Bat,” said Reed. “Both are endangered and have suffered significant losses due to white nose syndrome.”
White nose syndrome is a result of a fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans that invade and ingest the skin of hibernating bats.
“It’s transferred from cave to cave by people,” said Reed. “Spores can be carried by people on their gear and begin to impact bat populations elsewhere.”
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