Perhaps people would be more understanding of bats and appreciate the role they play in the wild had they not been portrayed as the evil cohorts of Dracula as portrayed by Bella Lugosi.

In reality, bats are the ones in danger because of a deadly disease known as White-Nose Syndrome. Bats play an important role in keeping insects under control, allowing everyone to enjoy being outdoors.

As such, Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists are seeking assistance from residents in a regional monitoring effort to collect bat maternity colony data this summer. This monitoring is especially important to measure bat mortalities caused by White-Nose Syndrome, a disease that affects hibernating bats in Pennsylvania and other parts of the eastern United States.

"WNS primarily kills during the winter, but the true impact of WNS on bat populations cannot be determined using estimates from winter hibernacula alone," PGC wildlife biologist Nate Zalik said. "Pennsylvanians can help us more fully gauge the impact of WNS on bats by hosting a bat count this summer."

In particular, those who have conducted a bat count in the past for the PGC are encouraged to do a count this year. To obtain applications and information on how to participate, visit the PGC website at http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/ and click on "Wildlife" in the menu bar at the top of the homepage., click on "Wildlife" in the drop-down menu, scroll down and choose "Pennsylvania Bats" in the Wild Mammals section, and then click on "Appalachian Bat Count."

Forms on the website guide interested participants through the steps of timing, conducting a survey and submitting their findings to the PGC. Scout groups, 4-H clubs, local environmental organizations and individual homeowners can all participate in this important effort.

"Pennsylvania's two most common bat species, the little brown bat and the big brown bat, use buildings as their summer roosts," Zalik said. "Abandoned houses, barns, church steeples – and even currently-occupied structures – can provide a summer home to female bats and their young.

"Monitoring these maternity colonies can give biologists a good idea of how bat populations in an area are doing from year to year. With the occurrence of WNS in Pennsylvania, monitoring these colonies is more important than ever."

Zalik noted that the fieldwork isn't difficult to do, and Pennsylvanians can play a huge role in helping the Game Commission get a better understanding of what is happening to bats this summer.

"We're looking for some help, and we hope you'll consider becoming part of the Appalachian Bat Count monitoring team," Zalik said. "It's a chance to make a difference for bats and to get involved in assessing the impact of WNS. Please consider lending a hand."

Information on WNS is available on the PGC website at http:// www.pgc.state.pa.us/.