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Researcher Looks at Whitenose Syndrome in Western IL

Lis Powers

Whitenose syndrome has devastated bat populations across the country. Now a researcher is hoping to answer some lingering questions about the disease by looking at bats in Western Illinois.

White-Nose syndrome kills bats during the winter, but just how it kills them is still not known for sure. Lisa Powers, a PHD candidate at the University of Illinois, is looking at how the disease affects how bats reproduce.

She’s hoping a colony of bats at Siloam Springs in Adams County will give her some answers.

Her research centers on a peculiar ability that female bats have.

Powers said bats mate in the fall before hibernating, but females are actually able to put the pregnancy on hold during the entire winter.

"If humans could effectively do that it would be great right? You could just say well I'll go ahead and make the baby now, but now is not a really good time to have a baby so I'll just hang on and I'll just not start pregnancy for another six months," she said.

Laughing, powers added,"It could excellent timing for jobs and things like that."

What power's research is aiming to figure out is if White-Nose is causing that ability to short circuit and start the pregnancy in the winter when bats are trying to hibernate and there is limited food.

Even if the bat's pause button is not being disrupted,  she said the disease leaves pregnant bats weakened come springtime, when they need extra energy for the growing baby.

Scott Stuntz is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.