The Florida bonneted bat is officially Endangered
The Florida bonneted bat, battered by disappearing habitat and threatened by climate change, is being formally listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which proposed the listing a year ago, said the designation took effect November 1, 2013.
The species (Eumops floridanus), formerly known as Wagner’s mastiff bat, is documented in only a handful of manmade roosts in seven Florida counties. No natural roosts are currently known. The total population is believed to number only a few hundred.
Florida bonneted bats do not migrate and they roost in tree hollows, buildings, under Spanish-tile roosts, in dead palm fronds and bat houses. Fast and agile, they hunt a variety of night-flying insects over open spaces.
The USFWS also formally recommended Endangered Species listing for the northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis), which has been decimated by White-nose Syndrome. The proposal on October 1, 2013, begins a year of pubic comment and scientific investigation before a final decision will be announced.
The Florida bonneted bat is the first bat to join the Endangered Species List in 25 years. The lesser long-nosed (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) and Mexican long-nosed bats (L. nivalis) were both listed in 1988. Other U.S. Endangered bat species include the gray myotis (Myotis grisescens) and Indiana myotis (M. sodalis), along with three subspecies: the Virginia and Ozark big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus and C.t. ingens) and the Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus).
In addition to “small population size, restricted range, few colonies, slow reproduction, low fecundity and relative isolation,” the USFWS says Florida bonneted bats face the risk of extinction because of continuing loss and degradation of roosting and foraging habitat due to human activities.
The agency also said the impacts of climate change, “including sea-level rise and coastal squeeze, are expected to become severe in the future and result in additional habitat losses.”
One of the few bright spots for these beleaguered bats is that White-nose Syndrome is not considered a threat (at least for now) because they do not hibernate and inhabit a very warm climate.
BCI’s first Bats and Wind Energy Workshop
Bat Conservation International’s Bats and Wind Energy Program has been working to minimize bat fatalities at wind-energy sites for 10 years, even as wind energy expands rapidly around the world. Last summer, the program hosted its inaugural Bats and Wind Energy Workshop in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The three-day session combined classroom presentations with hands-on experience to provide the latest information on monitoring equipment, state and federal guidelines and regulatory policies, effective study design, data analyses and strategies to reduce bat fatalities. The 25 instructors and participants included representatives from the wind industry, biological consultants, state and federal agency staff and BCI.
As a testament to the rapid expansion of wind energy and the urgent international need for information and guidance, participants traveled from Australia, Chile and Puerto Rico to attend this unique workshop. Thanks in large part to donations from BCI members, we were able to provide travel funds for two Latin American colleagues.
Hawaii was an ideal location. Not only are wind-energy sites going up on several of the islands, but the state is home to the federally Endangered Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus) – a subspecies that is susceptible to collisions with wind turbines. The bat’s biology and ecology, as well as the regulatory framework and relevant research techniques, were discussed.
“This workshop was extremely productive for us at RELCOM (the Latin American bat conservation network),” said Renzo Vargas Rodriguez of Chile. “Now we need to use it as soon as possible … for environmental impact assessments and ecological research in relation to wind power” in Latin America.
The Bats and Wind Energy Program will be scheduling additional workshops around the United States and also plans to collaborate with international partners to develop workshops in other countries where bats face the risks of wind turbines.
BCI thanks First Wind, Titley Electronics, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Hawaii for contributing to the success of this workshop.
Hints of hope in talks to save the bats of Bracken Cave
Bat Conservation International and its allies have been working most of the past year to protect the millions of bats that live in the Bracken Cave Preserve from a 3,500-home subdivision that’s planned along the southern boundary of the 697-acre preserve that BCI?owns and protects. After months of talks with the owners, negotiations to combine government and BCI funds to purchase the 1,545 acres as a protected natural area appear to have entered a new and more optimistic phase.
“There is still a long way to go and no guarantees of success, but the tone of the discussions definitely seems more hopeful,” BCI?Executive Director Andy Walker said after a meeting in mid-December. The situation remains uncertain and fluid, however, as negotiations are set to resume after the New Year.
A “call to action” that BCI sent to members and friends last spring generated impressive support and we thank you all. This threat to Bracken Cave Preserve was unexpected and has severely taxed BCI’s resources. And we need your help more than ever.
To learn the latest developments in this bat-conservation crisis and how you can help, please visit: www.batcon.org/savebracken
Bats, kids, TV and the Internet
Why do bats hang upside down? How come bats sleep all day? How long do bats live? Do bats bite? Can I have a bat for a pet?
These were among the many questions asked by kids in more than 250 classrooms scattered across the United States and into Canada as they watched – and participated in – Bats: Live on the Big Screen! this past Halloween.
BCI Public Information Coordinator Dianne Odegard has partnered with the Texas Wildlife Association several times each year since 2009 for these interactive distance-learning programs. The Internet-based videoconferences, complete with live bats and the opportunity for children to ask questions in real time, have dramatically amplified BCI’s educational voice.
Odegard describes them as “show and tell” sessions that explain why bats are worth caring about and how kids can help bats. Bats, she says, are never a hard sell for children, who seem to have a natural affinity for these much-maligned mammals. In the words of a popular BCI poster: “Out all night, sleep all day – no wonder kids love bats!”
The Halloween presentation was watched by more than 9,400 students in grades 1-5 in 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces, a record for all of TWA’s distance-learning programs. With live bats of several U.S. species, as well as Zoey, an African straw-colored fruit bat who is a veteran BCI ambassador, the kids get to see exactly what bats really look like.
And you just never know how far that spark of excitement at seeing a real bat will take a child; perhaps some future bat scientists and conservationists were in that fascinated young audience.
Oh, and about those questions: Bats’ circulatory systems prevent blood from rushing to their heads; bats have adapted to feast on night-flying insects and night-blooming plants; one species of insect-eating bat can live at least 41 years; bats, like any wild animal, may bite if frightened; and no, bats are wild animals, and they do not make good or happy pets.
Monfort Cave survives
Typhoon Haiyan devastated people, property and wildlife across much of the Philippines in November 2013. And while it in no way lessens this heart-wrenching tragedy, BCI wants to share that one of the worst typhoons ever to hit the island nation has spared longtime BCI partner Norma Monfort, her family and the immense colony of fruit bats that live in the cave she owns and protects.
“It is just dawning on me that what I watch on TV is real and not from a movie,” Monfort wrote in an email to BCI soon after the typhoon hit. “It’s devastating and horrible and it’s taking me time to believe, since we are fine here on Samal Island,” which was outside the storm’s path.
Roughly 1.8 million Geoffroy’s rousette fruit bats (Rousettus amplexicaudatus) roost in Monfort Cave. BCI has worked with Monfort and an expanding community of individuals and organizations dedicated to bat conservation throughout the Philippines.
While the world’s largest colony of these bats survived the disaster relatively unscathed, much of the Philippines was devastated and help is desperately needed.
“I feel so sorry for those who are suffering,” Monfort said. “And I feel guilty as I sleep in my warm bed and eat when I am hungry.”