Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘bats’

Big brown bats in N.J. thrive as smaller cousins decline

Saturday, October 25th, 2014
Big Brown Bats (c) Phil Wooldridge

Big Brown Bats (c) Phil Wooldridge

White-nose syndrome continues to kill off little brown bats in New Jersey, but there is hope on the horizon for another species of bat – the big brown bat. Reporter James O’Neill explores the changing fortunes of New Jersey’s bats.

Protecting Bats – What is Being Done and How You Can Help!

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Hard to believe, but October is already here! And that can only mean one thing — bats! Everyday throughout the month of October, follow CWF on social media and our blog to fly high with these incredible creatures of the night! Each day we will have fun facts, quizzes, and beautiful photos highlighting these amazing animals and the work CWF does to protect them.

Our previous coverage included an overview of bats in New Jersey from our biologist, a look into the threats facing bats today, and a reality check on the myths and legends surrounding bats! Today we share some examples of ways you can get involved in our efforts to save bats in New Jersey.  Stay tuned next week to join CWF bat biologist Stephanie Feigin in the field!

Make sure to follow us everyday on Facebook and Twitter and read our blog every Friday for our #31daysofbats!


By Julianne Maksym

Big brown bats in bat house (c) Stephanie Feigin

Big brown bats in bat house (c) Stephanie Feigin

With terrifying threats like White Nose Syndrome, bats face a tremendous fight for survival. Populations are declining worldwide at an alarming rate – some species are becoming so rare they are hardly ever seen at all.

Bats need all the help they can get and Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) offers some simple ways to get involved and make a difference:

Building a bat house: This can create a safe and secure home for a colony of bats of up to 80 individuals. These houses provide the opportunity for bats to settle into a new roost before being evicted from a homeowner’s dwelling. The most ideal location to position a bat house is on the side of a building (where bats already roost) or on a pole in open space. The house should be set at a minimum of 12 feet off the ground facing south to southeast with early and direct sunlight. CWF is able to offer free bat houses in cases where bats are being evicted from a building. If interested in setting up a bat house please contact us, as we would like to monitor the process.

Summer Bat Count: During the hot summer months, we ask volunteers to participate in our annual Summer Bat Count. There are a total of four bat counts per summer – two between May 15 and June 21 (before pups can fly) and two more between July 6 and July 31 (when pups are flying and exiting the roost with their mothers). Making sure you do all four bat counts will allow us to best compare data from year to year and between sites. Previous yearly reports and current data sheets can be found at CWF’s ‘Summer Bat Count’ page.

AnaBat acoustic detector. The attached PDA (like a little computer screen) lets us view incoming bat calls instantly. © MacKenzie Hall

AnaBat acoustic detector. The attached PDA (like a little computer screen) lets us view incoming bat calls instantly. © MacKenzie Hall

Acoustic surveys: To aid in bat research across New Jersey, CWF purchased two AnaBat SD2 acoustic detectors for the purpose of studying echolocation and general bat behavior. Four bat detectors are now in circulation for use; volunteers now do most of our mobile acoustic surveys. Volunteers are assigned a 10-30 mile driving route in their local area to travel twice each summer after dark. Detectors can be mounted on vehicles and activated while driving at night, making them a pretty quick and easy way to get a lot of information – all without having to catch, hold, or even see a single animal. For more details please contact us, as there is currently a waiting list for the acoustic detectors.

Plant a night garden: Love bats and have a green thumb? Plant a night garden! In these sanctuaries, night-scented flowers are grown to attract bugs such as moths, which in effect provides an ample food source for bats. Plants such as white jasmine and evening primrose and herbs such as mint and lemon balm are great to start with. Plant oak or field maple trees to add some shelter and warmth to your garden. To get started on your green project, check out Back to Nature, an artisanal home and garden store located in Basking Ridge, NJ. *Note: 10% discount for CWF members.

Do not disturb bats during hibernation: A huge way in which to help maintain stable bat populations is to stay away from caves, roosts, or trees during hibernation season. It is important to not disturb a hibernating bat as any disruption to its sleep can result in early awakenings. It is estimated that a bat can burn up to a two weeks worth of fat reserves in each awakening which in turn can severely weaken and/or kill the bat. Whether you are outside hiking or just taking a stroll and encounter a roost, leave quickly and quietly!

IMG_1497Adopt a Species Program: Interested in adopting a bat? Check out CWF’s Adopt a Species Program for the Indiana Bat. Your symbolic adoption supports our efforts to protect New Jersey’s rarest animals, restore important habitat, and foster pride in New Jersey’s rich wildlife heritage. Adopting a Species also makes a great gift for a friend or loved one. Give the gift that gives twice!

Bats face an ever-present uphill battle due to both natural and unnatural causes. Populations are in desperate need of help! Whether it is building a bat house or a night garden or anything in between, every action you take in supporting these animals means we are one step closer in providing a stable world for them. Join CWF in volunteering your time, educating the public and most importantly, protecting our amazing bats!

Julianne Maksym is a graduate wildlife intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

Bloodsuckers and Blind? Hardly – Exploding the Myths of Bats

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Hard to believe, but October is already here! And that can only mean one thing — bats! Everyday throughout the month of October, follow CWF on social media and our blog to fly high with these incredible creatures of the night! Each day we will have fun facts, quizzes, and beautiful photos highlighting these amazing animals and the work CWF does to protect them.

The first week we gave an overview of bats in New Jersey with a news article written by CWF Wildlife Biologist MacKenzie Hall. Last week we discussed some threats bats face today. Today we will debunk myths about bats, and later this month we will give examples of ways you can help and CWF Wildlife Ecologist Stephanie Feigin will share some stories from the field!

Make sure to follow us everyday on Facebook and Twitter and read our blog every Friday for our #31daysofbats!


by Sarah Bergen

A bat emerges from its summer roost site. © MacKenzie Hall

A bat emerges from its summer roost site. © MacKenzie Hall

Bats tend to have the reputation of being mysterious creatures of the night. The extent of most peoples’ interactions with bats is limited to a fleeting glimpse in the dark of the night. Because we do walk amongst these species, there is often a lack of understanding and even fear surrounding bats.

So let’s clear up some myths and misconceptions that are often associated with these creatures. Despite common beliefs that bats are blind, rabies-ridden bloodsuckers, they are actually an extraordinary mammal that is valuable to eco-systems all over the world. All bats in the United States are insectivores, and can eat up thousands of bugs in a single night. Because they control the populations of many pests, they are a priceless factor in agriculture, only to be replaced by harmful pesticides. A recent study published in Science magazine estimates that bats’ insect-eating services may be worth as much as $53 billion to US agriculture alone (click here to read about it).

  • “Blind as a bat.” Not exactly. The assumption that all bats are blind is completely false. Many bats primarily use echolocation to locate their prey, since it can give them a much more accurate picture of objects and pray in complete darkness. In reality, most bats have very good vision, possibly even as sharp as a human’s 20/20 vision.
  • Bats are not flying blood-suckers that may sweep into your bedroom and leave you lifeless in bed! In fact, the bats that inhabit the United States are completely harmless. Americans should not fear the bite of a bat or the contraction of rabies from the creatures because North American bats live off of insects and have no interest in sucking your blood. Studies show that less than 1% of bats contract rabies; rabid bats tend to become solitary and die quickly, and unlike raccoons, cats, dogs, and other animals, they rarely become aggressive.

In the countries that are inhabited by vampire bats, there are only three sanguivorous, or blood-drinking bat species, that inhabit Mexico, South, and Central America. Vampire bat species include the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat. These three species are the only mammals on the planet that survive solely on blood. The rarity of this characteristic surely contributed to the fear that now surrounds them, which is only magnified by the many popular films that feature vampires.

Vampire bat photo credit: National Geographic

Vampire bat photo credit: National Geographic

But even those bloodsuckers do not usually target humans as their food source. These three species tend to prey on birds and sleeping cattle and horses. Contrary to how vampire bats are portrayed in films, they do not suck blood out of their prey, but instead lap it up with their long tongues for about 30 minutes. These species do not take enough blood to cause any harm to their prey, but they can spread rabies and other diseases and the development of infection is a possibility. Cattle industries in these countries are being negatively impacted, and scientists are working to find a solution.

Since the 1970s, efforts to control the spread of rabies through bats have focused on culling, or killing bats through the use of poison and even explosives. A poisonous paste is applied to a captured bat, which then spreads the paste among its colony through grooming after it is released. However, poison has been found to be unsuccessful by numerous studies because it only targets adult bats, many of which have developed immunity to rabies, and fails to affect juvenile bats, which are less likely to groom older bats, as well as develop immunity. A better alternative practice that does not involve the killing of innocent bats is the immunization of livestock. It has even been found that the revaccination of cows during pregnancy allows an immunity to develop in the calves.

Bats have developed a reputation as being creepy creatures of the night, but are, in reality, valuable to our eco-system and agricultural economy. As communities celebrate Halloween, and bats with sharp fangs decorate homes, be sure to remember the bright side to bats.

Sarah Bergen is a communications intern with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

Shedding Light on Threats Bats Face Today

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Hard to believe, but October is already here! And that can only mean one thing — bats! Everyday throughout the month of October, follow CWF on social media and our blog to fly high with these incredible creatures of the night! Each day we will have fun facts, quizzes, and beautiful photos highlighting these amazing animals and the work CWF does to protect them.

Last week we gave an overview of bats in New Jersey with a news article written by CWF Wildlife Biologist MacKenzie Hall. Today we discuss some threats bats face today. Later this month we will debunk myths about bats, and share ways you can help!

Make sure to follow us everyday on Facebook and Twitter and read our blog every Friday for our #31daysofbats!


by Stephanie Feigin

Despite the many environmental and economic benefits bats provide, bat populations around the world are still declining. Bats face many threats today, including habitat loss and destruction, human persecution, disturbance of hibernating bats in caves and mines, wind energy development, and White-nose syndrome.

(c) MacKenzie Hall

Red Bat (c) MacKenzie Hall

Human activity and persecution are among the biggest factors in bat population declines worldwide. The forests bats use to roost and forage in have been destroyed at an alarming rate for timber, new farm land, cattle pastures, or housing developments. In the last 50 years 17% of the forests in the Amazon have been destroyed and converted to cattle pastures. Bats are also being driven out of their roosts in caves or mines due to careless tourism. Today, the most important caves and mines are now gated to keep tourists out and protect the bats from any human disturbance.

In winter, large numbers of bats gather to hibernate in the relative warmth of caves and mines. The bats go through incredible metabolic changes during hibernation.  Their heart rate slows from 1,200 beats per minute (in flight) to just 15-20 beats per minute, and their body temperature drops roughly in half to match the temperature underground. A little brown bat in torpor can actually go 48 minutes without taking a breath!

By slowing down, bats are able to conserve energy during the long winter without food.  But they’re very vulnerable during hibernation – a single arousal can cost a bat 2 weeks worth of fat reserves.  Too many disturbances can jeopardize their survival. Since bats reproduce slowly, usually only giving birth to one pup a year, disturbance to maternity roosts can also be very harmful to bat populations and it takes a long time for these populations to recover.

Tri-colored bat covered in water droplets while hibernating (c) MacKenzie Hall

Tri-colored bat covered in water droplets while hibernating (c) MacKenzie Hall

Bats have been misunderstood by humans for many years, and are still among the most persecuted animals on earth. In many parts of the world, bats are killed due to fear or harmful myths making bats seem scary or even dangerous. In Central America there have been numerous accounts of people destroying caves with the use of dynamite in attempts to kill vampire bats. However, many fruit-eating bats are also killed in the process by people who mistake them for vampire bats. Reportedly, 40,000 caves in Venezuela have been destroyed, resulting in the loss of large populations of other bats as well as other cave fauna.  In Australia, flying foxes, primarily the Grey Headed and Spectacled flying foxes, are shot by farmers to keep the bats from eating their fruit trees — even though there are more effective alternatives. Both the Grey-headed flying fox and Spectacled flying fox populations have declined by at least 95% in the past century. In certain locations, bats are also hunted for food or folk medicines.

(c) MacKenzie Hall

(c) MacKenzie Hall

Wind energy development poses a growing threat to bats. As wind farms crop up along the ridgeline corridors used by migratory bats, the number of bat fatalities grows. Hundreds of thousands of bats are killed each year in the United States from collisions with the spinning blades of wind turbines or because of rapid pressure change at turbines which can rupture their blood vessels. In the east, studies have found that an average of 46 bats are killed annually per wind turbine. Fortunately, research is showing that bat deaths can be tremendously reduced by simply shutting the turbines down during seasonal low-wind periods, when power generation is minimal anyway.

Perhaps the most significant cause of declining bat populations in our region is a disease called White-nose syndrome that continues to spread across the United States and Canada. White-nose syndrome was first discovered in upstate New York in 2006, and has since spread to 25 states and 5 Canadian provinces, killing over 6 million bats in the process.

White-nose syndrome on hibernating bats

White-nose syndrome on hibernating bats

The disease is 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 preventing them from conserving enough stored energy to survive until spring. White-nose syndrome also causes dehydration and unrest as well as severe wing damage that can prevent bats from flying.  At some sites, the mortality rates are 100 percent. 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.

Though bats face many threats today, Conserve Wildlife Foundation continues to protect these incredible animals and educate the public about ways that you can help. Bats need our help!

Stephanie Feigin is a Wildlife Ecologist for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

Wings and a Prayer

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Hard to believe, but October is already here! And that can only mean one thing – bats! Everyday throughout the month of October, follow CWF on social media and our blog to fly high with these incredible creatures of the night! Each day we will have fun facts, quizzes, and amazing photos highlighting these amazing animals and the work CWF does to protect them.

Today we will give an overview of bats in New Jersey with a news article written by CWF Wildlife Biologist MacKenzie Hall. Next week, we will discuss some threats bats face today. On the third week we will debunk some myths about bats, and for the final week in October we will share ways you can help!

Make sure to follow us everyday on Facebook and Twitter and read our blog every Friday for our #31daysofbats!

 

CWF biologist MacKenzie Hall releases male Big Brown bat (c) Robert Thompson

CWF biologist MacKenzie Hall releases male Big Brown bat (c) Robert Thompson

by MacKenzie Hall, CWF Wildlife Biologist

Bats are a fascinating group of animals. They’ve been flapping through the skies for more than fifty million years and are still the only mammals on Earth that can truly fly. They’ve conformed their diets, their homes, and their bodies to nearly every environment worldwide, with more than 1,200 species now spread across the planet. Some are tiny (the one-inch long Bumblebee Bat of Thailand is the world’s smallest known mammal), while others are quite massive (the wingspan of tropical Flying Foxes can reach six feet!). Poke around online to see some of their incredible diversity. Just skip over the Wrinkle-faced Bat if you want to sleep at night.

  • Click here to read the full article
  • Click here to learn more about CWF’s bat projects