CHAMPAIGN, Ill., 10/9/18: With a new bat borescope extension crafted at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) shop, researchers can find and identify bats roosting in hard-to-reach locations without disturbing the colony.
Mammalogists Jocelyn Karsk and Jean Mengelkoch in the Illinois Natural History Survey worked with Travis Griest in the PRI shop this summer to build an expandable, angled metal arm long enough to allow them to photograph and videotape bats nestled above support pylons on the underside of bridges in Lawrenceville, IL. They attached a borescope camera to one end of an adjustable pole.
Standing on boom lift equipment for elevation, one biologist maneuvered the borescope into bridge crevices, while the other held a tablet computer screen to detect areas with a large concentration of bats and direct where the borescope should be placed to get the best photos without getting too close to the roosting bats.
Since bats are nocturnal, scientists typically conduct capture surveys at night as bats leave their roosting spots and commute to foraging grounds. In the dark, researchers use nearly invisible mist-nets to catch individuals for species identification, examination, or radio-tagging.
In this case, the biologists conducted the field work midday when bats would be present in their roosting location because mist-netting at this location was not feasible.
The purpose of this project, sponsored by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), was to identify the species of bats roosting in bridges that are slated for repairs.
“We needed a way to determine if the bat colony was a species that is federally listed as threatened or endangered,” said Karsk. “We thought we might find northern long-eared bats, which are a federally threatened species, or the Indiana bat, which is a federally endangered species. When construction or repairs on bridges are planned, we want to be sure that the bats won’t be harmed in the process.”
What they found was a colony common to the area, either big brown bats or evening bats, two morphologically similar species that are difficult to distinguish without measurements. Neither of these species is federally threatened or endangered.
However, all 13 bat species found in Illinois are state protected species. IDOT will coordinate further with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before repairs begin to ensure no harm is done to the animals.
Media contacts: Jocelyn Karsk, 217-300-9956, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Mengelkoch, 217-265-7885, email@example.com
Travis Griest, 217-333-6849, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tricia Barker, Associate Director for Strategic Communications, 217-300-2327, email@example.com
Photo credit: Jocelyn Karsk