Brown_Bats

Bats of North Carolina

Bats represent one-quarter of all mammal species worldwide. Like us, they give birth to live young. Bats are relatively long-lived mammals and can survive 20 to 30 years in the wild. Of the 17 bat species that occur in North Carolina, three are listed as federally Endangered and one is listed as federally Threatened. Bats are primarily nocturnal, though they also forage in the early evening and early morning hours. Although most bats have relatively good eyesight, they primarily use echolocation to navigate and locate prey. Their maneuverability is phenomenal—bats can avoid objects as small as a string in total darkness. Bats mate in the spring or fall and usually produce one pup per year. Many species form maternity colonies in the summer to raise their young, while others are solitary roosters. Some bat species migrate south for the winter and others find local hibernation areas, called hibernacula, for the winter. Bats prefer caves or mines for hibernacula, though they have also been known to use buildings and bridges, and they usually return to the same site every year. By educating the public, monitoring populations, and protecting bat habitat, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) is working to sustain bat populations in our state.

Bats

  •   Can carry rabies
  •   Bat guano that can be left in attics can cause disease called Histoplasmosis
  •   ONLY trained professionals should handle bats
  •   Some bats carry WSN (white nose syndrome)

The Benefits of Bats

Bats are integral to ecosystems worldwide. Tropical bats disperse large amounts of seed and pollen, enabling plant reproduction and forest regrowth, and are especially important in the pollination of cocoa, mango, and the agave plant, which is used to produce tequila. North American bats have a major impact on controlling insect populations that are considered agricultural pests. They save the corn industry over $1 billion annually in pest control. A nursing female bat may consume almost her entire body weight in insects in one night. Recently a protein found in vampire bat saliva has been used to develop clot-busting medication to aid stroke victims.

Monitoring Bat Populations

Education is another important tool for bat conservation in North Carolina. By introducing people to bats and their benefits, and teaching them how to co­exist with bats, we can help sustain the bat populations in our state. North Caro­lina citizens can support bat populations by avoiding hibernation colonies and installing bat boxes on their property. Bat Conservation International’s website has more information on bat boxes.

In 2002, the NCWRC purchased the mineral rights to and acquired a donated con­servation easement at Cranberry Iron Mine in Avery County to protect the hibernating population of Virginia big-eared bats, tri-colored bats, little brown bats, big brown bats and northern long-eared bats. If bats are disturbed during hibernation (especially WNS-infected bats), they can expend their stored energy before spring and die of starva­tion. The NCWRC and U. S. Forest Service constructed steel gates at the mine entrances, which allow bats to freely move in and out of the mines, but prevent people from enter­ing, disturbing the bats, and potentially spreading WNS. To further protect bat habitat, the NCWRC has also been working

Protecting Bat Habitat

In 2002, the NCWRC purchased the mineral rights to and acquired a donated con­servation easement at Cranberry Iron Mine in Avery County to protect the hibernating population of Virginia big-eared bats, tri-colored bats, little brown bats, big brown bats and northern long-eared bats. If bats are disturbed during hibernation (especially WNS-infected bats), they can expend their stored energy before spring and die of starva­tion. The NCWRC and U. S. Forest Service constructed steel gates at the mine entrances, which allow bats to freely move in and out of the mines, but prevent people from enter­ing, disturbing the bats, and potentially spreading WNS. To further protect bat habitat, the NCWRC has also been working alongside lands trusts, N.C. State Parks, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire land with critical habitats.

Next Steps…

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