Bats are one of the most diverse groups of mammals in the animal kingdom. They are facing new threats, such as the emergence of white-nose syndrome (WNS), recently detected in Washington state. In addition, there are many gaps in knowledge about bats in the Northwest, particularly in urban environments, that impede effective conservation.
Monitoring Bats at Woodland Park Zoo
In early 2020, Woodland Park Zoo and Bats Northwest collaborated to place an acoustic bat monitor on zoo grounds to record the echolocation calls that bats make while hunting their insect prey. Each bat species has a unique call frequency that our collaborators from Bats Northwest analyze to determine which species are present. The bat monitor at the zoo has recorded the call frequency of 8 different bat species, out of 10 species known to occur in western Washington!
What are the threats to endangered bat species?
Bats are in danger. Their populations are under threat across the continents, including right here in North America. For too long the urgency of this problem has been ignored because bats are less popular and less understood than some of the other charismatic animals at the center of many conservation campaigns. But bats are essential to the web of life as pollinators and pest controllers and it’s time we take action for them!
In the U.S.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease that is devastating to bats and is caused by a fungus. It was first recorded in the eastern U.S. in 2006. It is not yet known where the fungus originated (though it has since been found in Europe and Asia) or how it got to the U.S., but it continues to spread rapidly across the U.S. and Canada. The resulting disease has infected multiple species and killed millions of bats. The fungus disrupts the bat’s hibernation, causing the animals to leave their roosts prematurely, fly into the winter cold and either starve or freeze to death. Researchers are working to understand WNS and begin restoring these bat populations. Some species of bats, however, have been found with the fungus but do not show signs of the disease. White-nose syndrome was first detected in Washington state in 2016 and the fungus and disease have since been detected in several counties and several species of local bats. Because most bats in the western U.S. do not hibernate in large groups like eastern U.S. bats do, we do not yet know how the disease may impact bats in the western region.
- Wind turbine disruption poses a large threat to bat populations. Partners from conservation organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Wind Energy Association are working together to prevent further damage to populations.
- Habitat destruction, including filling in or closing off abandoned mines, urbanization (noise, light and air pollution), and human disturbance can all jeopardize a roost.
- Bats are collected and eaten as food in many areas of the world.
- Cave roosts are lost to improper guano mining, recreational caving and the commercial harvesting of swiftlet nests used in bird-nest soup.
- Habitat destruction, roost disturbance, and reckless eradication efforts continue to place many bats in extreme peril.
Defend bats: You have the power to fight back!
What can you do to answer the bat call?
Stay batty! The most important thing you can do to help bats is to love them. Fear and misunderstanding about bats aren’t going to help them. Educate your friends and family about all the good things that bats do for us.
Provide habitat for bats in your own yard. Leave hollow trees and snags standing or install a bat house. Keep cats indoors and reduce your use of pesticides or other chemicals in your yard. To provide roosting habitat, you can build and install a bat house. Bats Northwest has great bat house information.
Visit the bats at Woodland Park Zoo and support conservation groups, especially those in the Pacific Northwest, like Bats Northwest, and internationally with Bat Conservation International.
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A great deal of what I am doing with my advocacy work is to offer a voice to those who may not be able to speak up for themselves.
The purpose of this book is to share photos of many of our non-human “Friends” with a larger audience.
These “Friends” give us the impetus to speak up for them, our environment, and our habitat.
Net Profits from “Listen, Listen To My Heart’s Song,” “Atreus’s View From a Tent,” and “Friends” will be contributed to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the American Cancer Society, and the Woodland Park Zoo for their Conservation programs.
Woodland Park Zoo saves wildlife and inspires everyone to make conservation a priority in their lives.