Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Mammals’

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.


LEARN MORE


 

Halloween and Bats

Monday, October 19th, 2015
Spooky or Beneficial?

by Stephanie Feigin, Wildlife Ecologist

Big Brown Bat photo by Blaine Rothauser

Big Brown Bat photo by Blaine Rothauser

It’s that time of year again, the days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping, and creatures of the night are lurking behind shadowy corners. As Halloween approaches one animal comes to the forefront of everyone’s mind – bats.

 

For most people, the connection between the spookiness of Halloween and bats is a natural fit. Bats are elusive creatures of the night that hide in dark spaces, and they live secretive lives leaving us in fear of their actions.

 

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 that make them seem scary or even dangerous.

 

To me, however, that connection does not seem like a natural fit. Bats are one of the most beneficial animals to humans. They can eat thousands of insects in one night, protecting our crops and forests from insect destruction. They pollinate many important foods that we love and are worth millions of dollars to U.S. agriculture alone.

 

Though tying bats with the Halloween season gets the general public thinking about bats for almost a full month, I prefer to think of bats every day. I like to think about them on a warm summer night when I am outside not being bit by mosquitoes, or when I am eating some of my favorite foods, like chocolate and bananas, that are pollinated by bats.

 

Sadly, however, due to the many threats that bats face today, we have lost a significant amount of our bat population nationwide. The continued loss of these animals will have drastic effects, including increasing the demand for chemical pesticides, and we will be losing a key link in our ecosystems that is irreplaceable.

 

This is why it is important that we work to love the bats we still have for all of the benefits they provide. We need to remove the spooky stigmas that surround bats and show them off in a new light, because to me the scariest thing would be a world without bats.

Red Bat photo by Blaine Rothauser

Red Bat photo by Blaine Rothauser

And they really are pretty cute.

 

Learn More:

 

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

Northern Long-Eared Bat Protected Under Endangered Species Act

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announced Bat as Threatened, Primarily Due to White-Nose Syndrome

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Northern Long-Eared Bat © Lance Risley

Remember back in late November when we wrote a blog encouraging our supporters to help the Northern Long-Eared Bat become listed as an Endangered Species? Thanks to those of you who submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it was announced today that the Northern Long-Eared Bat will be listed as threatened and protected under the Endangered Species Act.

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has cited declines caused by White-Nose Syndrome as well as continued spread of the disease, as the primary threat to the species. Under the protections of the Endangered Species Act, the Northern Long-Eared Bat now has increased priority for funds, grants, and recovery opportunities.

 

Also announced today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an interim 4(d) rule that will provide maximum protection to the Northern Long-Eared Bat in areas where their populations have drastically declined due to White-Nose Syndrome, but will limit regulatory burden on the public in parts of the country where the bat species is not affected by the disease and the populations are stable. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites the public to comment on this interim rule until July 1, 2015.

 

Learn more about the listing and 4(d) rule:

 

CWF Field Guide: learn more about the Northern Long-eared Bat

 

How Can You Help Protect Northern Long-Eared Bats?

  • Do Not Disturb Hibernating Bats
  • Leave Dead and Dying Trees Standing: Where possible and not a safety hazard, leave dead or dying trees on your property. Northern long-eared bats and many other animals use these trees.
  • Install a Bat Box: Dead and dying trees are usually not left standing, so trees suitable for roosting may be in short supply and bat boxes can provide additional roost sites.
  • Get involved with Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Bat Project!

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

“New Jersey’s Little Lion”: Biologists Shed Light on Elusive Bobcat

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

By: David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director

MountainLionBlog

With our eastern landscape largely devoid of top carnivores, bobcats are a throwback to the wild predators that once ruled our forests. No one understands that better than our partners from the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP). The bobcat was listed as a state endangered species in June 1991, and habitat fragmentation in our densely populated state has made their recovery especially challenging. Biologists Mick Valent and Gretchen Fowles study bobcats in the wild, and here they generously share their insights on this remarkable creature.

 

What do you find most compelling about working with bobcats?

Mick Valent: I have worked with many species during my tenure with the Division of Fish and Wildlife including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, Allegheny woodrats and timber rattlesnakes, to name a few. However, to me, none epitomize the “wild” in wildlife the way that bobcats do. To me, they are the ultimate New Jersey predator – highly adaptive, perfectly camouflaged, keen senses of sight and sound, blazing speed and quickness, razor sharp claws and teeth, and the ability to stalk their prey quietly or overrun them! Fierce and unyielding, when captured, they are truly New Jersey’s little lion!

 

Can you describe the feeling of your first bobcat sighting?

MV: As chance would have it, I went many years without seeing a bobcat in the “wild” in New Jersey – even as the population was apparently increasing. Despite spending many days afield tracking and trapping bobcats, it wasn’t until 2011 that I saw my first bobcat (aside from the ones that I trapped and collared). I was in Allamuchy Township in January of 2011 searching for a suitable area to trap, when an adult bobcat bolted from a pile of tree stumps and logs right in front of me. A perfect spot for a bobcat to seek shelter during the daylight hours. And by the way, we were never able to catch that animal!

 

Are bobcats proving adaptable to New Jersey’s changing landscape and human development?

Gretchen Fowles: Bobcats seem to be increasing in northern New Jersey. In the past couple of years, there have been an increasing number of bobcat sightings south of Route 80 (though still north of Route 78), suggesting that they have been somewhat successful at passing through that tough Route 80 barrier. Our data suggest that bobcats are finding a way to move between core habitat areas in northern New Jersey. We have several males and females that have moved over 30 miles from year to year.

However, major roadways continue to be a problem. We have GPS collar data from a couple of bobcats that indicate that major roadways, such as Routes 80 and 206, seem to be perceived as complete barriers to these animals. The collars recorded movement patterns with location points going right up to and paralleling the road, but not crossing over it. We have been monitoring about 12 crossing structures under major roadways in northern New Jersey that bisect suitable bobcat habitat.

 

What are the worst threats to bobcats in New Jersey?

GF: Habitat fragmentation and roads are the worst threats, and they’re getting worse. A young bobcat was hit by a car and was found on the shoulder of westbound Route 78 last year. So, they are trying to cross that barrier, but are having difficulty doing so. Another bobcat was hit by a car in Parsippany when attempting to cross Route 46. The final quarter of each year, between October and January, tends to be the peak period for bobcat road mortality, and it is important that people report these incidents to the ENSP. We are working on a project called Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) that is aimed at reconnecting the landscape for terrestrial wildlife, like bobcats.

We have formed a multi-partner, multi-disciplinary working group to inform the development of this statewide connectivity plan that will help target local, regional, and state planning efforts and ultimately reconnect the landscape in New Jersey. We are mapping the core habitat areas in the state as well as the corridors that can serve to connect those areas together, and are working on a Guidance Document that will recommend ways in which those cores and corridors can be made more permeable through targeted land protection, habitat management and restoration, and road mitigation efforts. We are also developing a bobcat recovery plan.

The constant threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, changes in land use, the existence of barriers to free movement between suitable habitats, and automobile collisions on our busy and abundant roadways will likely limit the growth of New Jersey’s bobcat population. It is likely that bobcats will remain only locally abundant in areas of suitable habitat, primarily in the areas north of Interstate Route 80. Whether or not a few animals are successful at crossing our major roadways, they will always pose an impediment to free movement between suitable habitats and will continue to be a source of mortality to the population.

 

What are some of the ways you study bobcats in New Jersey? Are you still using dogs in this work?

GF: We continue to use Bear, a professionally trained working dog for wildlife who is used to locate and alert biologists to bobcat scats, to help us better understand the New Jersey bobcat population. Bear is now about 12 years old, but his nose still works!
DNA can be extracted from sloughed intestinal cells contained in bobcat scat and can provide a wealth of information. DNA analyses of scat, as well as the locations where the scats are found, allow biologists to identify individual animals, their sex and movements. The DNA data from scats and tissue samples that we collect from bobcats killed on the road, accidentally snared, or trapped by ENSP in order to fit with GPS collars, are being fed into analyses that will help use estimate survival rate, population size and structure, and sex ratio.

We also collared three bobcats this past winter near major roadways, and set the collars to collect locations every hour. We are excited to retrieve the data from these collars in a few months to evaluate how those major roadways may be influencing the cats’ activity patterns and determine if, when and where they are crossing them. This information will help validate our CHANJ mapping and inform our Guidance Document.

 

Is the big picture for bobcat populations any different nationally?

GF: A recent national status assessment conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service found that bobcats were generally increasing throughout their North American range. This appears to be holding true in New Jersey in areas where we have suitable habitat that is accessible to the population.

 

Tell me about your most memorable encounter.

MV: My volunteer and I had responded to a call from a trapper who accidentally caught a bobcat in his cable restraint during one of those January cold spells. The bobcat was caught on the bank of a medium-sized stream next to a footbridge. As we approached, the animal was pacing along the stream bank and jumping up on the foot bridge. As my volunteer distracted the animal, I came in from behind and jabbed the cat in the rump with a jab pole loaded with a tranquilizing drug. We immediately backed off to let the drug take effect so we could remove the cable from the animal’s neck. As the drug began to take effect the animal lost the ability to stand and slipped into the water – struggling to stay above the surface.

Without hesitation, we ran back to the stream. My volunteer arrived first, jumped into the frigid, chest-deep water, and grabbed the cat and pulled him to safety. Although the cat was not fully sedated, we were able to wrap him in a dry blanket, remove the snare from his neck and get him into the truck and off to a rehabilitation facility without incident. Everyone survived unscathed – although I’m certain the bobcat was much better prepared for going into the water than we were!

 

Learn more:

 

  • Subscribe!

    Enter your email address to subscribe to the Conserve Wildlife Blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Support Conserve Wildlife Foundation

    Support our efforts to protect New Jersey’s rarest animals, restore important habitat, and foster pride in New Jersey’s rich wildlife heritage.

    Join - Donate - Adopt a Species
  • Recent Comments