Next week the DEC will honor Bat Week to raise awareness regarding the important role bats play in our environment.

In observance of Bat Week, which is recognized internationally and is a weeklong focus to raise awareness about disturbing bats during their hibernation. Human disturbances are very harmful to the state's population of bats since the arrival of white-nose syndrome, which is a fungus that has killed 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in New York.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said:

Exploring caves can be a fun adventure, but it can lead to disaster for New York's bat populations. Hibernating bats are highly susceptible to even the quietest cave visits. If disturbed, bats will temporarily increase their metabolism and expend significantly more energy than normal, making them more susceptible to disease. During hibernation months, it's better and safer for visitors to stay out of caves altogether, but if you do come across hibernating bats in a cave, I urge you to leave quickly and quietly

The DEC also wants to remind residents to follow all posted signs restricting access to caves and mines. When bats are disturbed during hibernation are forced to raise their body temperature, which uses reserved fats.

Two species of bats are currently protected under federal and State endangered species law. The Indiana bat, which is sparsely distributed across New York, and the northern long-eared bat is protected as a threatened species as well.

Bat Week is observed through October 31 and is organized by conservation groups from the United States and Canada. More information regarding Bat Week can be found on the Bat Week website.