ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — To protect bats, the Department of Environmental Conservation is asking outdoor enthusiasts to refrain from visiting caves and mines during the fall and winter months. The DEC states that human visitations can be harmful as disturbances during their hibernation cause them to raise their body temperatures, thus depleting crucial fat reserves.

Individuals are asked to follow all posted notices restricting access to caves and mines. If you stumble across hibernating bats, the DEC says to leave quickly and quietly to minimize disturbance.

There are two species currently protected under federal and state endangered species law. The Indiana bat is sparsely distributed across the state, and the northern long-eared bat is approximately one percent of its previous population. Both have been impacted by a fungus known as the white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in New York.

A third species, the tri-colored bat, was proposed for endangered species protection on September 13, 2022. The DEC saw a 98 percent population decline of the species due to the white-nose disease. Anyone entering a northern long-eared bat hibernation site from October 1 through April 30 may be subject to prosecution.

There are no treatments for bats suffering from white-nose syndrome. Experts across the U.S. are attempting to understand that disease and develop a treatment.