CHAMPAIGN, Ill., 9/10/19: Bat species that used to be common in Illinois are scarce in recent surveys, sending up a red flag, according to Tara Hohoff, mammologist in the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) at the University of Illinois.
Although the Indiana bat is listed as federally endangered, or in danger of becoming extinct, the Illinois Bat Conservation Program (www.illinoisbats.org) researchers have netted more of these bats than the once common little brown bat, which is not protected, and the northern long-eared bat, which is a threatened species at risk of becoming endangered.
In 2016–2018, scientists netted 18 Indiana bats, zero northern long-eared bats, and only 3 captures of little brown bats. In 2019, scientists have caught only 1 northern long-eared bat, the first capture in several years.
Hohoff manages the Illinois Bat Conservation Program, through which a team conducted mist net surveys on 91 nights during the three years.
“From our surveys, we can ascertain that the numbers of little brown bats and northern long-eared bats are extremely low, which is alarming,” Hohoff said. “We wondered, what does this mean”?
All three species are highly susceptible to white-nose syndrome, a fatal fungal disease that mainly affects migrating bats that hibernate in damp caves, spreading the disease from bat to bat. In Illinois the first appearance of the disease—with its tell-tale white nose fungus—was in 2013.
Wind turbines are another threat to bats, especially when located along migratory corridors. As bats migrate, they may become attracted to the turbines, so scientists speculate, and the number of bat deaths are high.
Survey findings suggest that monitoring should include all bat species, Hohoff said. The endangered Indiana bats were a top priority, but now other species are also losing the battle to white-nose syndrome.
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