The DEC is reminding New York residents to avoid caves and mines to protect New York's bat populations.

National Bat Week runs from Oct. 24 - Oct. 31 and the DEC is urging outdoor adventurers to suspend exploration of caves and mines that may serve as seasonal homes for hibernating bats.

Human disturbances are especially harmful to the State's bat population since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in New York.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said:

White-nose syndrome makes bats highly susceptible to disturbances. Even a single, seemingly quiet visit can kill bats that would otherwise survive the winter. If you see hibernating bats, assume you are doing harm and leave immediately

All posted notices restricting the use of caves and mines should be followed. If you encounter hibernating bats, leave the area immediately as quickly and quietly as possible. When bats are disturbed during hibernation it forces them to raise their body temperature, depleting their fat reserves. This stored fat is the only source of energy available to the bats until the weather warms in spring.

The Indian Bat, found sparsely distributed across New York is a federally endangered bat. Also the Northern Long-Eared Bat is protected as a threatened species under federal and New York State Endangered Species law.

Anyone entering a northern long-eared bat hibernation site from October 1 through April 30, the typical period of hibernation for bats, may be subject to prosecution.