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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Neosho woman works to help bats in area caves

  • Nearly anyone who sits outside on a summer evening has seen the erratic flight of a bat darting around in search of its favorite food—mosquitoes.
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  • Nearly anyone who sits outside on a summer evening has seen the erratic flight of a bat darting around in search of its favorite food—mosquitoes.
    People usually simply say, "There's a bat," while our mind wonders how these small, mouse-like flying mammals have a scary reputation each Halloween.
    Bats are accepted as a part of nature, and most people do not realize they are currently fighting for their very existence because of "White-Nose syndrome(WNS)," a contagious virus. This virus was probably brought to the United States by cave explorers (spelunkers) who had also explored caves overseas and did not clean their contaminated equipment before bringing it home.
    WNS grows on the nose and wings of bats, while they are hibernating, and is 90-98 percent fatal. Missouri currently has no known cases of WNS, but the probability of it striking close to home is apparent.
    Missouri Bat Census is a not-for-profit group of conservation minded volunteer cavers who are working to see that WNS does not enter the state, and if it does they are ready to combat it.
    Sarah Cook, a young mother who works at the Health Center in Neosho, has volunteered to help bats in our local caves. She is now the Southwest Survey Team Leader.
    She recently spoke to the Neosho Lions Club, telling about her experiences exploring caves, searching for bats, identifying, and counting the small creatures. Her greatest discovery to date is locating a small number of grey bats. Until this, grey bats were thought to be extinct in Missouri.
    With photographs, she showed the local Lions her work in caves, and some of the creatures she has observed. Besides counting bats, the Missouri Bat Census volunteers also look for other cave creatures and their habitats. They do their work in caves on private property with permission of the land owners.
    Cook explained that she became part of the Missouri Bat Census group after reading some posts on the internet by some of its members. Cook first volunteered to assist anyone who explored caves in Southwest Missouri, and has now taken on an even bigger role.
    Although Cook is the mother of two-preschool youngsters, she feels that helping protect bats is a hobby worth her precious time. She also shared with the Lions the numbers of mosquitoes and other pests a bat consumes each year, removing these pests from human activities.
    So next time you sit outside on your porch and are not overcome by mosquitoes, thank Sarah Cook and the Missouri Bat Census for their efforts to preserve our bat population.

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