Recently, down at the park, you may have noticed an odd stand with a camera on it. This camera was being used to monitor the area habitat for bat activity and health. Conservation Biologist, Heather Kaarakka has been studying bats around WI and recently reached out to Earthology Institute to participate in the monitoring.
Since 2007, cave hibernating bats in North America have experienced severe declines because of the fungal disease, white-nose syndrome (WNS) which causes mass mortality as bats hibernate in winter. In order to better understand the impacts of the disease and how bat populations are potentially changing in response to WNS, biologists and wildlife managers are working toward figuring out what bats require as habitat in winter and in summer. Summer is a critical time for bats because they require safe, secluded places to give birth and raise their young, and managing bats post-WNS will require knowledge of what bats use as habitat in summer. Heather’s project focuses on modeling summer habitat at the landscape scale for tri-colored bat and northern long-eared bat which both have experienced declines of over 90% in most hibernation sites. Their goal this summer and of the detectors such as the one at Earthology Park will be to see where tri-colored bats and northern long-eared bats are potentially holding on in the face of white-nose syndrome which reached Wisconsin in 2014. You can read some more details about Heather’s bat summer habitat suitability project in the Wisconsin Bat Program’s annual newsletter. We hope to share more on her findings later this summer.