(WETM) — Even though spooky season is coming to an end, that doesn’t mean we should stop caring about bats.

“Bats are circling around us this Halloween season, reminding us all to do our part to protect these important flying mammals,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC is encouraging New Yorkers to help protect bats by avoiding caves or mines to prevent any unintentional harm to bats and safeguarding their habitats.”

Nine bat species call New York State home, and they’re preparing to spend the winter in hibernation. Humans interrupting hibernating bats puts their health at risk, especially because bats are at risk of contracting a fungus called “white-nose syndrome.” According to the DEC, white-nose syndrome has killed more than 90% of bats at hibernation sites in New York State since it arrived in North America in 2006.

Since human interference puts bats at a greater risk of contracting the incurable and deadly white-nose syndrome, the DEC is asking people to leave bats alone. The public should follow all posted notices that restrict access to caves and mines. Hikers and explorers who stumble upon hibernating bats in caves should leave quickly and quietly. Bats rely on fat reserves to survive while hibernating and must conserve energy, so disturbing them makes it less likely they will survive through the winter.

While all bat populations in New York State need conservation help, the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat are both endangered and protected under both state and federal law. Anyone who enters a northern long-eared bat hibernation site between Oct. 1 and April 30 could be prosecuted, so it’s best to stay out of caves completely during the fall and winter.

Those who don’t find themselves in caves or mines very often (or ever) can still do their part to protect bats. When they aren’t sleeping in caves, bats live in trees and form maternity colonies in them to raise their pups. Cutting down trees that bats live in could harm them, so the DEC recommends only removing trees while bats are hibernating from Nov. 1 through March 31.

To learn more about bats and other animals that call New York State home, you can visit the DEC’s website. More information about how you can help with conservation can be found on the DEC’s website as well.