Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
Select this button stylePrint Friendly

Principal Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Michael Bean conducts a television interview following dedication of Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal, Missouri. Photo by Georgia Parham/USFWS.

Principal Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Michael Bean conducts a television interview following dedication of Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal, Missouri. Photo by Georgia Parham/USFWS.

Partners dedicate Sodalis Nature Preserve for people and bats

Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the U.S. Department of the Interior, and City of Hannibal Mayor James Hark joined other federal, state and local officials, residents and private partners to celebrate the completion of an extraordinary effort to conserve and create a nationally important Indiana bat habitat area and community park in the historic hometown of Mark Twain.

The dedication came as Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell proclaimed October 24 through October 31 as National Bat Week, highlighting the ecological and economic importance of bats in controlling insect pests and as pollinators. Secretary Jewell asked the American public to join her in recognizing the importance of bats, the threats they face, including white-nose syndrome, and the stewardship role the Department plays in providing valuable habitat for bats, research and recovery actions throughout the nation.

A dedication ceremony and “BatFest” celebration were held at the Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal, which features popular recreational trails and hibernating habitat for an estimated 168,000 federally endangered Indiana bats—approximately one-third of all the Indiana bats in the world—in the former mines beneath the preserve.

“Bats are incredibly important to our environment and to our economy. They are the primary predator of night-flying insects, playing an integral ecological role and saving billions of dollars in agricultural pest control every year,” Bean said. “They’re also in trouble from threats like white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed millions of bats, including Indiana bats, across the United States. Sodalis Nature Preserve—the largest hibernation site in the world for Indiana bats—represents a milestone in conservation, not just here in Missouri, but across the 22-state range of the Indiana bat.”

“Hannibal residents have embraced the new park,” said Mayor James Hark. “Every day, there are children, senior citizens, dogs, strollers, scooters and bicycles on the trail, using it for exercise and education. Our school is using Sodalis Nature Preserve to teach our youngsters about bats and the importance of conservation. Our citizens have adopted the preserve, making sure it is safe and clean. Our tourists have discovered there is more to Hannibal than Mark Twain. The whole endeavor has been a win-win situation for the city of Hannibal.”

The 185-acre Sodalis Nature Preserve was acquired by the City of Hannibal earlier this year. The purchase of the property and its management was funded through the Flanagan South Pipeline Mitigation Fund provided by Enbridge Pipelines, L.L.C., which was negotiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support mitigation for impacts to endangered species and migratory birds resulting from construction of the pipeline. The Conservation Fund worked with the City to negotiate the purchase, facilitated the demolition of derelict mining structures and secured the mine entrances on the property with gates that allow bats to enter and exit the mine and keep people out.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation holds a conservation easement, which restricts residential and commercial development, ensuring the property—and the bats—will be protected forever. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working closely with the City, will monitor and manage the bat populations on the property, prioritize research needs and provide guidance on habitat management for long-term conservation of bat populations. Funds have been set aside for management of the property and the future replacement and repair of the bat gates.

“Prior to the discovery of this significant population of Indiana bats hibernating in the former limestone mine, it was presumed that all Indiana bats hibernating in Missouri were located south of the Missouri River,” said Biologist Shauna Marquardt with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The discovery of the bats at Sodalis Nature Preserve and the Service’s research over the last few years have changed what was understood and assumed about Indiana bats throughout the bats’ range. This new information led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider the preservation of Sodalis Nature Preserve one of the highest priorities for bat conservation in the Midwest.”

Five other bat species are known to use the property, including the federally endangered gray bat and federally threatened northern long-eared bat. The permanent protection of important bat hibernacula is also essential to the conservation and recovery of species affected by white-nose syndrome, one of the greatest threats to hibernating bats in North America.

The Sodalis Nature Preserve is the second largest park in the City of Hannibal. It will serve as a hands-on laboratory for students to study bats and other wildlife and plants. The park is named for the Indiana bat, whose scientific name is Myotis sodalis. Myotis means “mouse ear,” and sodalis means “companion,” referring to the social nature of Indiana bats, which cluster together during hibernation.

From partner news release 

A young bat fan works on a kite at BatFest in Hannibal, Missouri. Photo by Georgia Parham/USFWS.

A young bat fan works on a kite at BatFest in Hannibal, Missouri. Photo by Georgia Parham/USFWS.

 

Last updated: November 9, 2016