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Ocelot and Virginia big-eared bat.

In the spirit of Halloween season, some of the ES Daily facts highlight cats and bats!

Ocelot photo on left and Virginia big-eared bat photo on right by USFWS

October 2014


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Prescribed fire is used to manage many threatened and endangered species’ habitats. Eastern prairie fringed orchids, Mead’s milkweed, Dakota skippers, Karner blue butterflies, eastern massasaugas and Kirtland’s warblers are some of the plants and animals for which periodic fire was a natural and necessary component of their natural landscape.
Midwesterners are a little envious of Kirtland’s warblers. After spending the summer in northern Michigan, this songbird winters almost exclusively in the Bahamas. They use habitats locally known as “low coppice,” which are characterized by low broadleaf and fruit-bearing shrubs.
Scientists use new technology to find out when and where Kirtland’s warblers migrate. Researchers attach geolocators to birds like a backpack. Geolocators are small devices that measure sunlight and time of day. Once recovered, data from a geolocator can tell us the general path and timeline of a bird’s migration.
Caribbean island iguanas are considered the most endangered group of lizards in the world. One species is extinct and 8 of the remaining 11 are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and are included in Appendix I of Cites (threatened with extinction).
Iguanas are the largest native vertebrates left on many Caribbean islands. Several species exist as single populations with no more than a few hundred individuals. Threats include introduced mammals (feral dogs, cats, pigs and goats), habitat destruction, collection for the pet trade and competition with the introduced common green iguana.
Like all snakes, the threatened copperbelly water snake, is “cold-blooded.” A more accurate term is ectothermic, meaning that the animal relies on the environment to control its body temperature and does not produce its own internal heat as birds and mammals do. Copperbellies will bask in the sun on cool days and seek out the shade during hot spells.
Because copperbelly water snakes are ectotherms, they hibernate underground during winter, often in crayfish burrows. Several snakes, sometimes of different species, may hibernate together in the same place.
By now, most Indiana bats have arrived at their hibernaculum and are preparing for hibernation. In much of its range, the number of Indiana bats active at hibernacula increases through August and peaks in September and early October.
Upon arrival at a hibernaculum, Indiana bats "swarm," a behavior in which large numbers of bats fly in and out of cave entrances from dusk to dawn, even though few actually roost in the caves during the day. Swarming continues for several weeks and during this time mating occurs.
Fall is an important time for Indiana bats to store sufficient fat to support energy requirements of hibernation. During fall swarming, Indiana bats forage in the vicinity of the hibernaculum and gain weight, stored as fat, to sustain them until spring.
Endemic to southern Missouri River tributaries in Missouri, the threatened Niangua darter is threatened by water quality degradation, blocked fish passage and gravel harvest from their sensitive headwater environments. Recent low water bridge improvements are removing fish barriers and show great promise toward conserving this unique species.
October 12 begins National Wildlife Refuge Week. More than a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside a tiny bird rookery off the coast of Florida, Pelican Island, as the first national wildlife refuge. Since then the Refuge System has grown to 562 Refuges from the Caribbean to the Pacific, from Maine to Alaska. Here are some Refuge events happening this week.
National Wildlife Refuges are home to more than 380 of our nation's endangered or threatened species. Fifty-nine national wildlife refuges have been created specifically to help imperiled species.
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin was established to provide waterfowl habitat, but its diverse landscape is also home to endangered Karner blue butterflies, gray wolves (delisted), an experimental flock of whooping cranes, and a variety of plants and animals of special concern.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, manages the Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Management Area, lands dedicated to recovery of this endangered bird. Located in eight counties in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, the management area has 125 separate tracts that total 6,684 acres of managed jack pine habitat.
The Ozark Cavefish National Wildlife Refuge, managed by Mingo NWR in Missouri, is a 40-acre refuge established to protect this threatened fish. Turnback Creek Cave Spring is on this property and is the outlet of an underground stream that supports an Ozark cavefish population.
Pilot Knob National Wildlife Refuge protects abandoned mine shafts that endangered Indiana bats use for hibernation. Indiana bats tend to hibernate in very large numbers in a small number of caves and mines. At Pilot Knob, iron mine shafts were excavated in the mid-1800s and bats hibernate within the shafts located at the peak of Pilot Knob Mountain.
Endangered interior least terns nest at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana where endangered fat pocketbook mussels, Indiana bats and northern copperbelly water snakes also live. Whooping cranes sometimes feed at the refuge during migrations between Wisconsin and southern states.
Small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides), a threatened species, is a small orchid found along the Appalachian belt from Ontario through New England, south to Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina, and west to Michigan and Missouri. It is often cited as the rarest orchid east of the Mississippi River. This orchid grows in hardwood and hardwood/conifer forests where it may be found in leaf litter near braided, intermittent streams.
Due to the rarity of the small whorled pogonia, biologists developed a model to identify potential suitable habitat. Based on the results of the model, new sites were surveyed and multiple new orchid populations found in the northeast area of its range.
Most orchids require a fungus to successfully germinate. While research is ongoing, scientists still have not been able to germinate the small whorled pogonia despite work with multiple species of fungi. Check out this video for more about small whorled pogonia and other orchids.
The Benton County Cave Crayfish (Cambarus aculabrum), listed as endangered in 1993, occurs in only one county in Arkansas and likely one county in Missouri. Being troglobitic (living only in the dark portion of caves), it has reduced eyes and a total lack of pigment.
Like other troglobites, Benton County cave crayfish rely on sources of organic matter outside of caves for food. Dissolved organic matter may be brought into caves by streams, seeps, or percolation; while particulate organic matter, such as leaves and guano, is brought into caves by streams, the wind or roosting bats.
The ocelot is a wild cat listed as endangered throughout its range, from southern Texas and southern Arizona through Central and South America into northern Argentina and Uruguay. Check out this documentary about ocelot conservation in Texas.
Ocelots are one of six cat species found in North America. They used to range from South Texas up into Arkansas and Louisiana but today there are less than 50 ocelots that remain in the United States, including a breeding population found on the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
In addition to the ocelot population in Texas, there may be some ocelots in southern Arizona. Camera traps documented an ocelot in Cochise County, Arizona, in 2010 and in that same year an ocelot was found dead on a road near Globe, Arizona. Prior to these findings, the last known ocelot in Arizona was lawfully shot in the Huachuca Mountains in 1964.
Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes do not hibernate in a group like other snake species. Instead, they look for crayfish or mammal burrows, sawdust piles, or old root canals to hide alone.
Crayfish burrows that are built in river bottoms, with above ground mud chimneys, are the favorite hang outs for most massasaugas. Massasaugas hibernate in these burrows at or near water level. Since the massasauga cannot make its own burrows, it depends on these other animals for survival.
The infamous rattles on rattlesnakes are modified scales with a bony core. Each time a snake sheds its skin a new "button" is added to the rattle, so numbers of rattles show how many times the animal has shed its skin, not its age. Massasaugas can shed their skin 3 to 5 times a year, depending on their health. Massasauga rattles produce a buzzing noise like the sound of a grasshopper or cricket.
You may have bats on your mind since it’s Halloween season, a great time to spread the good news about bats. Bats are shy, intelligent and fascinating. Check out our 2013 Bat Fact Calendar and use the information to help others appreciate bats!
Vampires, blood-sucking monsters of fiction and film, have been around since ancient times in folklore and myths of Europe and elsewhere. But when and why did bats become associated with vampires? Spanish explorers in Central and South America saw blood-lapping bats and called them "vampire", which may have started the connection between vampires and bats that endures today.
Last updated: September 30, 2014