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Northern Long-Eared Bat Mist Netting and Radio Telemetry Study

Tracking a federally listed bat species across New Jersey

Image of Female Northern long-eared bat (c) Ethan GilardiFemale Northern long-eared bat (c) Ethan Gilardi

Northern long-eared bats

The Northern long-eared bat, also known as Northern myotis (M. septentrionalis) is one of four New Jersey bat species belonging to the Myotis genus. It is similar in size and appearance to the little brown bat (M. lucifugus) and Indiana bat (M. sodalis), with an average weight of six to nine grams, a body length of around three inches, and a nine to ten inch wingspan.

The Northern long-eared bat is one of the species that has been most affected by White-nose Syndrome (WNS), suffering an overwhelming 98% reduction in numbers in WNS-affected areas. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Northern long-eared bat as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in April 2015.

Mist netting & Radio Telemetry Project

Image of Stephanie Feigin carefully removes big brown bat from mist net (c) MacKenzie HallZoom+ Stephanie Feigin carefully removes big brown bat from mist net (c) MacKenzie Hall

This summer, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey partnered with New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species program and Rutgers University to conduct a statewide mist-netting and radio telemetry study to learn more about the summer distribution and habitat selection of Northern long-eared bats. This is an important project that can shed light on a species we know all too little about, and can help guide our decisions through a better understanding of the bats’ forest habitat requirements and roost locations.

This project focuses on five primary locations across the state to generate a big-picture understanding of diverse habitats and regions.

Our five locations include:

  • Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area
  • Rockaway River Wildlife Management Area
  • Washington Crossing State Park/Alexauken Creek Wildlife Management Area
  • Brendan Byrne State Forest
  • Wharton State Forest

Mist Netting

Image of The team setting up a mist net in Brendan Byrne State Forest (c)MacKenzie HallZoom+ The team setting up a mist net in Brendan Byrne State Forest (c)MacKenzie Hall

Mist nets are extremely fine nylon or polyester mesh nets that are strung between two poles. The nets can be purchased in a variety of lengths to accommodate different survey locations. At each location, we chose two different sites to deploy our five mist nets (each site with a different arrangement of nets) for eight hours at each site in places we suspect are good travel corridors for Northern long-eared bats. We conducted two netting nights at each site (four nights total at one location) for a total of 20 netting nights throughout the months of June, July, and the first few weeks of August.

Northern long-eared bats were the target species for this project, however any bat in the myotis genus was of interest. Once a bat was caught in the net, the bat was safely taken out of the net and processed.

The team collected data on:

  • Forearm measurements
  • Weight
  • Age (juvenile or adult)
  • Sex
  • Reproductive status
  • Wing damage index

After these data points were collected, a uniquely numbered metal band was placed on the forearm of the bat.

Radio Telemetry

Image of Female Northern long-eared bat with transmitter attached to her back. (c) Stephanie FeiginZoom+ Female Northern long-eared bat with transmitter attached to her back. (c) Stephanie Feigin

If a bat of interest was caught, a specialized radio transmitter (LB- 2 model by Holohil Systems Ltd.) was immediately attached after an examination. Radio transmitters were placed in between the shoulders of the bat with surgical cement. Tracking occurred the next day after the transmitter was attached and continued until the transmitter fell off. The maximum distance the antenna can receive a signal from the transmitter is ¾ of a mile in perfect (unobstructed) conditions. Bats were tracked to their diurnal roosts and all pertinent data about roost site and surrounding area was recorded. Evening emergence counts were conducted at each identified roost tree.

Image of Amanda Bevan, Rutgers University graduate student, scans area with ATS scanning receiver and Yagi 3-element antenna for a signal from the transmitter (c) Stephanie FeiginZoom+ Amanda Bevan, Rutgers University graduate student, scans area with ATS scanning receiver and Yagi 3-element antenna for a signal from the transmitter (c) Stephanie Feigin

The goal of this project is to better understand the Northern long-eared population, distribution and habitat use throughout New Jersey. Understanding these factors will lead to better forest management practices and can help guide conservation decisions through. Ultimately, this data can be utilized in forest stewardship plans for New Jersey forest managers and landowners, allowing us to better protect the remaining populations in New Jersey.


Update:

During the summer of 2015 the team of 20+ trained volunteers conducted 19 netting nights and 10 tracking days catching a total of 59 bats, including 4 Northern long-eared bats, 2 little brown bats, 9 eastern red bats, and 44 big brown bats. The team was able to track each of the Northern long-eared bats documenting 4 very different roosts including the siding of a home, a narrow four-foot stump, and two different large Pine trees.

This project allowed the team to collect important data allowing us to fill in data gaps and better protect the Northern long-eared bat populations we still have in NJ. This work will also continue to help guide land management practices in the future through a better understanding of the bats’ forest habitat requirements and roost locations in New Jersey. This project will continue in the summer of 2016 with new sites throughout NJ.


This work was made possible with the support from the Franklin Parker Conservation Grants, EarthColor, and the Conserve Wildlife Matching Grant Program. Thank you to our supporters!


Learn More:

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CONTACT US:

Stephanie Feigin, Wildlife Ecologist:


Find Related Info: Bats, Mammals

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