June 26, 2013

IFW, Maine Audubon Seek Bat-Counting Volunteers

White Nose Syndrome has severely impacted bat populations throughout the northeast, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW), along with Maine Audubon, is looking for volunteers to help determine the effect of the fungus on Maine’s bat population.

The recent introduction of White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a cold-tolerant fungus, has wiped out entire bat hibernating colonies and has had a dramatic impact on the bat population in the northeast. Experts estimate that to date, more than five million bats have died because of WNS.

“White Nose Syndrome is impacting little brown bat and big brown bat colonies throughout the northeast,” notes IFW wildlife biologist John DePue, “Many historic bat colonies throughout Maine did not even have roosting bats last year.”

IFW and Maine Audubon are in the second year of a two-year study to determine the impact of WNS in Maine. The research is funded in part by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. IFW is also conducting bat acoustic surveys this summer as well.

“Of the 45 historic colonies identified by citizen scientists last year, only 12 had bats actually roosting – and none of them raised any pups,” noted Susan Gallo, Maine Audubon wildlife biologist.

Little brown bat and big brown bat colonies can be found in attics, barns, church eaves, old theaters, abandoned buildings, homes, garages and other structures. The rapid decline of these bats has many scientists and citizens concerned. Peak localized bat activity takes place now through the end of July. Bats migrate in the spring and fall.

Maine Audubon and IFW seek the help of Maine residents to identify the location of maternal bat colonies throughout the state (where female bats group together to raise their young). Information from citizen scientists will help establish a baseline for breeding bats.

Interested volunteers can follow an established protocol for estimating colony size by counting the number of bats emerging at dusk. “Because of the devastation of WNS on bat colonies, we are even looking for historical information – if you know of a bat colony that has not seen activity this year, we still want to hear about it,” noted Gallo.

Bat colony observations can be submitted at www.maineaudubon.org/bats.

For questions or further information about the Bat Conservation Project, please email Susan Gallo at sgallo@maineaudubon.org or call (207) 781-2330 x216.