It is no coincidence that this is the week of Halloween and it is also Bat Week. Every year Bat Week is celebrated internationally October 24th through October 31st. Bat week is an annual celebration of the role of bats in nature. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is asking that those of you who enjoy cave and mine exploration refrain from doing it during this time of year due to the bats hibernating.

When bats hibernate it is important that they don’t get disturbed. Not only can waking them from their sleep cause them stress that can lead to weight lose, but it also is how disease can be spread easily.  According to a press release from the NYSDECHuman disturbance is especially harmful to the state's bat populations since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed more than 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in New York due to how closely bats congregate in caves during winter months.”

Even the quietest visit to caves and other spots where bats have chosen to ride out the winter can cause problems for them. The NYSDEC is asking that you avoid posted spots and if you happen to discover a place in your travels exit quickly and quietly. Bats can easily be stressed and once their body temperature rises it depletes their fat reserve that they need to survive the winter.

Bats are vital to our environment in the Hudson Valley. They eat tons of insects, pollinate flowers and spread seeds the result in new trees and plants growing. Two species of bats in the Hudson Valley are currently protected under federal and state law, the Indiana bat and the Northern Long-eared bat. White-nose syndrome is the cause of both of these bat populations dropping dramatically. As a matter of fact anyone entering a northern long-eared bat hibernation site from October 1st through April 30th may be subject to prosecution.

So enjoy Halloween week and keep in mind that caves and mines are no place to be now through April 30th.