News & Notes

Maine’s Struggling Bats – Part Three

Thursday, October 15th, 2015
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With Halloween coming up in a few weeks, October is a great time to talk about bats. Our furry, flying friends are in trouble. Following is the third and final part of a series on bats we are featuring this month. Please read and share – fostering an appreciation for bats will do wonders to help make their conservation and protection a priority.

- Doug

The following article appears in the fall issue of Habitat, Maine Audubon’s member newsletter. Interested in receiving Habitat in the mail? Join us today!

Tracking Bats

One of the barriers to helping bats in Maine is that we don’t know much about where they are or what they do. Two new state initiatives will help shed light on this mystery. The North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) is a national monitoring project that uses acoustic recorders in established areas (both stationary and on driving routes) to record bat activity over several days. Maine Audubon citizen science volunteers recently helped MDIFW with two of these locations in southern Maine.

A scientist assesses the condition of northern long-eared bat

A scientist assesses the condition of northern long-eared bat

The other exciting initiative has trained 16 citizen scientists in southern Maine to use a small acoustic device attached to an iPad to record bat calls in real time. The device shows the bat calls on the screen and translates them to a frequency we can hear. Though only a pilot project this year, project director Eric Blomberg from the University of Maine is hoping to expand the project next year to more volunteers across a greater geographic reach of the state. Maine Audubon citizen scientists have been crucial to the testing of the device this summer, with over 2,000 bat calls recorded in just two weeks of testing! Volunteers will take the devices out until mid-fall with the hope that we will learn more about the location of bats and what kinds of habitat they are using.

In addition to the work of citizen scientists on the ground, a group of biologists, wildlife rehabilitators and citizens have formed the Maine Bat Working group (Maine Audubon is a member) with the goal of coordinating bat work in Maine and enhancing partnerships. With this coordinated effort, the group hopes to see a dramatic increase in the knowledge of bats, their location and responses to White Nose Syndrome over the next few years. Working together, we can all help create a brighter future for Maine’s bats.

How Can I Help?
  • Keep sturdy snags (standing dead tress) in your yard
  • Install a bat box on a south facing wall of your house
  • Allow bats to use barns and outbuildings on your property (even attics, if safe)
  • Avoid tree or insulation work during the breeding season (mid-June to the end of July) to avoid disturbing breeding bats and their young
  • Most importantly, tell your family and friends how amazing and important bats are–education can go a long way to help bats

Did You Know?

Despite popular belief, bats are friendly, useful creatures that protect humans from disease.
  • Bats can eat up to 800 mosquitoes in one hour
  • Maine’s bats are small and most weigh less than half an ounce
  • Bats are the only mammal that can fly
  • Hanging upside down allows bats to conserve energy
  • Mother bats live in maternal colonies, where they leave their young pups together while foraging for food at night
  • Mother bats find their own pup in the dark by smell and sound
  • Maine’s cave bats breed in the fall before hibernation, but don’t actually get pregnant until the spring (they store the sperm all winter!)

Miss one? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on bats

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

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