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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Piloting New Partnerships for Bat Conservation

Indiana bat 
An Indiana bat on tree. Photo by Adam Mann

Megan Seymour, a wildlife biologist with our Columbus, Ohio, Ecological Services Field Office, tells us how the Air Force is helping the endangered Indiana bat.

Aircraft aren’t the only things flying around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.  Indiana bats patrol the night skies, foraging for insects over the Mad River corridor. A maternity colony of Indiana bats was first documented at Wright-Patterson in 1993 and has been monitored regularly since then. For more than 20 years, these bats, which usually return to the area of their birth, have called the base their summer home. Prime habitat for the Indiana bat occurs only within about 700 acres of the Mad River’s forested riparian corridor, a small part of the base’s more than 8,000 acres, and concerns about habitat loss and degradation due to invasive species have arisen. 

Honeysuckle
BEFORE: The forest at Wright-Patterson with invasive honeysuckle in the understory. Photo by USFWS

Bush honeysuckles were introduced in the United States in the late 1800s for use in shelterbelts, wildlife habitat and landscaping. Birds disperse the seeds widely, and the plants have become naturalized throughout Ohio and the eastern United States. Bush honeysuckles are aggressive invasives that leaf out earlier in the spring than most native plants and maintain green leaves into the fall after most plants are dormant, shading out native plants and creating a monoculture. They  are recognized as one of Ohio’s top 10 invasive plants.

Indiana bat tree
An Indiana bat maternity roost tree near Wright-Patterson AFB. Photo by Melanie Cota/USFWS

The Mad River riparian zone canopy supports a diversity of native trees including maple, oak, hickory, cottonwood, hackberry, cherry, walnut, sycamore and ash. But the understory is dominated by honeysuckle, sometimes as large as 8 inches in diameter and 15 feet tall! 

Darryn Warner, the Natural Resources Program Manager at Wright-Patterson, noticed native tree saplings in the understory being out-competed by honeysuckle, and without management feared there would not be enough young trees to replace older trees as they die off. Thus, over time, Indiana bat habitat could become significantly degraded, or lost altogether. He decided that the Sike’s Act would be the mechanism to address the issue quickly.

The Sike’s Act requires all military installations to “provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources.” To do this, each installation must develop and regularly update an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP). In 2012, Warner updated the INRMP to include honeysuckle control within Indiana bat habitat along the Mad River corridor. This allowed Wright-Patterson to obtain funds in 2012 and 2013 and contract private companies to implement control activities. These companies cut and treated about 20 acres of bush honeysuckle per year.   

In Fiscal Year 2013, we established a nationwide interagency agreement with the Air Force allowing the Air Force to fund our staff to implement actions identified in INRMPs.  We received $60,000 in both fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to conduct invasive species control at Wright-Patterson, and an additional $10,000 per year to head-start forest regeneration in previously treated areas. 

Cleaned out
AFTER: The forest with cleaned-out understory. Photo by USFWS

Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, about 130 miles from Wright-Patterson in Indiana, had the staff, equipment and expertise to conduct the work. Biologist Brian Winters led a crew from Big Oaks, Muscatatuck and  Ottawa National Wildlife Refuges staff for 10 days during 2014-2015. Using machinery, herbicides, Service know-how and plenty of elbow grease, our folks treated about 100 acres, more than double what the contractors were able to treat, at a similar cost.

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We love to partner in projects that benefit endangered species and increase resilient landscapes; this project did just that by removing invasive honeysuckles and by planting native shellbark hickory trees, which are used by roosting bats as maternity colonies. Honeysuckle treatment is planned to continue over the next five years, including treatment of new areas and regrowth in areas that were treated previously.

So how is the Indiana bat faring at Wright-Patterson? Indiana bats continue to be captured there as recently as the last survey in 2012, and additional surveys are scheduled for 2017.

Indiana bats nationwide face the daunting threat of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that infects bats during hibernation and results in significant winter mortality. Ensuring that high-quality summer habitat persists within the home range of maternity colonies is a critical step in helping the bats that do survive white-nose syndrome recover and reproduce during the summer. Wright-Patterson is doing their part to ensure these small pilots have a safe landing spot this summer. 

Dogs to Aid Service with Bonneted Bat Research in Florida

by Ken Warren, USFWS

Tracking bats is going to the dogs. Literally.

If all goes according to plan this winter, a team of trained dogs and a handler from Auburn University will come to down south to help us find Florida bonneted bats, an elusive candidate species whose natural history is not fully understood.

bonneted-batThe elusive Flordia bonneted bat. (Photo: Kathleen Smith/Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Normally, the Service tracks bats and other animals using radio telemetry, but we need to use dogs in this case. Radio telemetry was tried before with captive bonneted bats, but they didn’t tolerate attached radio transmitters very well.

So, Service biologists Paula Halupa and Marilyn Knight of the South Florida Ecological Services Office have come up with a more innovative approach: Trained dogs

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Bats are Pollinators, Too!

By Rachel Penrod, USFWS

It's National Pollinator Week!

Did you know bats are pollinators too?

Our Wildlife Without Borders grantee, Rodrigo Medellin does.

When Rodrigo started doing bat conservation in Mexico in 1990, he knew it would be an uphill battle to save Mexico's more than 30 endangered bat species. People tend to see bats as flying rodents -- not as the animals who give them mosquito-free evenings, fruits, and flowers. So Rodrigo decided he wouldn't just study bats, he would teach people to love bats as much as he did.

To combat bats' image problem, Rodrigo put together a team of scientists and educators to help people understand how important they are to their communities -- from eating up all the nasty biting insects, to pollinating and spreading out seeds in all of the forests and fields.

bat-studyRodrigo Medellin, Wildlife Without Borders grantee, studies bats at Pinacate. (Photo: Program for the Conservation of Mexican Bats)

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Looking Back: Elizabeth "Betty" Losey

Every so often it's good to look into the past to revisit the people who got us where we are today. Looking Back is a new series on the people who helped shape the National Wildlife Refuge System. The series is based on "A Look Back," a regular column written by Karen Leggett, from the Refuge System Branch of Communications, which appears in each issue of the Refuge Update newsletter.

In 1947, Elizabeth “Betty” Losey – fresh from the University of Michigan with a master of science degree in wildlife management and conservation – said she couldn’t get a job with the Michigan State Game Division because no one wanted a woman out in the field overnight. 

Fortunately, a fellow Michigan graduate offered her a job. 

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White-nose Syndrome in Bats: A Truly Scary Halloween Story

They’re everywhere this time of year: pumpkins carved with crooked smiles, illuminating the evening from seemingly every porch or window on your street.

While the jack-o-lantern is probably the enduring symbol of the Halloween, a close second may be the black silhouette of a flying bat.


Don’t believe me? Go ahead, do a quick Google search of images using the word “Halloween.”  I’ll wait. 

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