Indiana is home to many wonderful animal species, but perhaps some of Green3’s favorites are bats. Bats are the only mammals capable of flight and use echolocation (simulated sonar!) to navigate in the dark and hunt insects. Bats are a vital part of our Indiana ecosystem because they help control insect populations, such as mosquitoes. By controlling mosquito populations, bats help protect our communities from the many diseases that mosquitoes carry.
Threats to Bats
Many bat populations in Indiana have seen steep declines in the past few decades. These declines in populations can be attributed to impacts to hibernacula (caves and mines), loss or degradation of summer habitat (forests and riparian habitat), and deaths caused by wind turbines. However, the most significant threat to bat populations is the rapid spread of White-nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that causes mortality in bat species. Two species are at great risk in our state, the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalist) which is state and federally endangered and the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) which is federally threatened and of state special concern. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Indiana bat has had a 27% decline in population since the first signs of White-nose Syndrome were found in Indiana in 2011. Throughout the range of the northern long-eared bat, numbers of some populations have declined by up to 99%. The fight to stop the spread of this disease, learn how to treat it, and research its spread is being fought by countless groups and agencies, such as the USFWS, DNR, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, universities around the world, and wildlife conservation groups.
Green3’s Work with Bats
In our environmental work with bridge, road, and trail projects, Green3 surveys sites for evidence of bat roosting and suitable bat habitat. Bats love to roost in trees with loose hanging bark, dead trees, and under structures such as bridges and in culverts. Before any work can be done on bridge or culvert projects, we inspect the structure for signs of bats. This involves checking for roosting bats, urine stains along concrete, and guano (bat excrement) deposits. We characterize the nearby habitat and note the types of trees that are nearby. These findings are shared with the USFWS, who ensures that construction activities will not impact roosting bats or suitable bat habitat. The USFWS has records on bat sightings, hibernacula locations, and critical habitat that they refer to when reviewing a project’s potential impacts. We take pride in our work at Green3 because it ensures that endangered and threatened species are not disturbed or impacted by construction activities. Protecting threatened and endangered species isn’t just something governments and scientists can do though, you can too!
How You Can Help
Help bats by spreading the word about how awesome and helpful bats are!
Donate to your state non-game fund on your taxes or here: http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3316.htm
Donate to the Organization for Bat Conservation (https://batconservation.org/) or Bat Conservation International (http://www.batcon.org/resources/getting-involved/bat-houses)
Stay out of caves and mines where bats are known to hibernate.
If you are hiking, caving, or camping, always be sure that you clean and disinfect your gear before every adventure to prevent the spread of invasive species and diseases like White-nose Syndrome.