Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘bat’

Halloween Without Bats

Monday, October 31st, 2016

By Stephanie Feigin, Wildlife Ecologist

This Halloween, while you are with friends and family celebrating a spooky evening of fun, I ask you to take a moment and think about one more thing – Halloween without bats. I want you to think about bats today not as the spooky creatures of the night that some people normally think of them as, but as incredible mammals that are invaluable to our ecosystem. In New Jersey, all of our 9 bat species are insectivores. They can eat thousands of insects in one night, protecting our crops and forests from insect destruction, and they pollinate many important foods that we love. A study published in Science magazine estimates that bats’ insect-eating services may be worth as much as $53 billion to US agriculture alone.

Photo courtesy of Blaine Rothauser.

Photo courtesy of Blaine Rothauser.

Despite the many environmental and economic benefits bats provide, bat populations around the world are still declining. Bats face many threats, including habitat loss and destruction, human persecution, wind energy development, and White-Nose Syndrome.

Little brown bats. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Feigin.

Little brown bats. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Feigin.

Devastatingly, we have lost over 6 million bats nationwide due to the spread of White Nose Syndrome (WNS) – a disease caused by a cold-loving fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans or Pd. It attacks hibernating bats, disturbing them during hibernation when the bats’ immune response is low, and prevents them from conserving enough stored energy to survive until spring. WNS also causes dehydration and unrest as well as severe wing damage that can prevent bats from flying. Much is still unknown about White-nose syndrome, its spread, and its consequences. The federal government, states, several universities, and organizations like ours are working hard to track and understand this disease.

Big brown bat emerging from barn. Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Hall.

Big brown bat emerging from barn. Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Hall.

In New Jersey, about 50,000 bats were killed by WNS in the first year (2009) – and we now estimate over 60 tons of mosquitoes and other night-flying insects go undevoured each year from loss of bats. Though bats are one of the most beneficial animals to humans they are still poorly understood and underappreciated, which is why today I ask you to think of them in a new light. Today, think about bats for all of the wonderful benefits they provide, think of them as amazing animals that work hard at night to protect our ecosystems, because we need to make a change.

To protect the bats we still have, it is important that people understand the stress these bats are under. It is important that we re-think how we view bats, remove the spooky stigmas that surround them and appreciate their importance to us. So today, think about bats think about how important they are, how badly we need to protect them and how scary a world without bats would be.

Big brown bat. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Feigin.

Big brown bat. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Feigin.

 

Stephanie Feigin is a wildlife ecologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation.


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Red Bat Surprise

Monday, December 19th, 2011
PHOTOS FROM THE FIELD

by MacKenzie Hall, Biologist

An eastern red bat found on the roadside. Photo by Gretchen Fowles

I’m starting to see that red bats are rule-breakers.  They’re considered forest bats but are happy almost anywhere there are trees, making them common and widespread across North America.  Unlike most other NJ bats, they don’t summer in attics or barns or under bark; rather they hang in the tree canopy at the mercy of wind, rain, heat, and cold.  They start flying earlier in the evening than other bats, and their females have more young (litters of 3 are common while litters of 5 are not unheard of…most other NJ bats give birth to just one pup per year).

But an unexpected winter sighting makes me awe even more at this colorful little creature.  On December 2nd, I was out on a county road in Byram (Sussex) with fellow biologists to plan a culvert project for amphibians.  It was a chilly morning – about 45 degrees at 10:00 am – cold enough that I wished I hadn’t left my hat in the car but not quite cold enough to go back for it.  On the road shoulder, on its belly, was a red bat.  Huh!  Red bats are migratory and most head south for the winter.  Sometimes they stay as far north as coastal NY and NJ, but a sighting this far inland was surprising.  (more…)

Mythbusting The Misunderstood Bat

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

By Maria Grace, Education & Outreach Manager

Bats are incredibly beneficial to humans. © Justin Boyles

Bats get a bad rap – they are blind bloodsuckers that get caught in our hair. But these are all myths and this post is going to bust them!

There are no bloodsucking bats in the U.S. Yes, there are vampire bats in the world (3 species live in the tropics from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, and Argentina) and while they do rely on blood for their sustenance, they don’t view people as a food source.  They usually pierce the skin of livestock such as cows, goats or chickens, and gently lap the blood from the wound (similar to how a dog licks water from a bowl).

Bats are not blind. Most species of bats have very good eyesight but they usually depend on their sense of echolocation to navigate through the world.  They emit high frequency sounds into their environment and these sounds bounce off objects and back to the bat.  The bat is then able to interpret the sounds and create a picture of what their environment looks like.

Bats rarely get caught in human hair. Bats, using their sense of echolocation, can detect objects as fine as a single human hair in total darkness.  They are not aggressive animals but they can fly too close to people while feeding on insects or when flying low over water to take a drink.

Beneficial bats eat bugs. Bats are incredible animals and do a lot for us.  All nine species of bats found in New Jersey eat insects, consuming one-third of their weight in bugs each night.  Bats play essential roles in keeping populations of night-flying insects in balance. Just one bat can catch hundreds of insects in an hour, and large colonies catch tons of insects nightly, including beetles and moths that cost American farmers and foresters billions of dollars annually, not to mention mosquitoes in our backyards.

Bats play a key role in pollination. In other areas of the world, bats are the primary pollinators for many desert plants like the saguaro and organ pipe cactus as well as many species of agave.   Bats also help in the pollination of fruits and veggies like bananas, avocados, coconuts, vanilla, dates, and mangoes.

Bats also help in seed dispersal.  In fact, seeds dropped by bats can account for up to 95 percent of forest regrowth on cleared land.  Bats spread the seeds of almonds, cashews, and chocolate.  Did you read that?  CHOCOLATE!  Bats help us to have more cacao trees, which produces the yummy main ingredient of our favorite Halloween treats!

So instead of screaming and freaking out if and when you see a bat, why don’t you stop and appreciate it and maybe say a little “thank you” for all the wonderful benefits they provide to us.  Halloween wouldn’t be the same without bats and the delicious m&m’s, snickers, and Almond joys are made possible because of the wonderful, now better understood, bats of the world.

Photo from the Field

Thursday, August 12th, 2010
Counting bats or the lack thereof

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

It is clear to me that White-nose syndrome (WNS) has decimated a large portion of the bat population in New Jersey, or at least at a site where I count bats for the Summer Bat Count. In 2008 (before WNS), I counted 261 bats at the Chatsworth General Store in August. Counting bats may seem like a daunting feat, but at dusk (when there is still a little light) the bats fly out of their daytime roosts. Sometimes, 1-2 at a time or in bursts of 3-4 or more. In August 2009, I counted 169 bats at the store. This past Sunday, I only counted 23 bats. To say the least these results are alarming. I hope that at other locations in New Jersey people are still seeing bats and I hope that WNS does not continue to decimate the population.

A photo of the bat houses installed on the Chatsworth General Store where many of the bats roost during the day. Many more used to roost in the attic. This image was captured using a technique referred to as HDR. © Ben Wurst.