• Biologists trap bats on post for research

  • Biologists conduct bat study on post.

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Working with the Environmental Division of the Directorate of Public Works, biologists Carme Ardito and Savanna Shafer concluded a two-year study to determine the presence of northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) on Fort Leavenworth May 26.
    Ardito and Shafer work for Environmental Solutions and Innovations Inc., based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ardito, a permitted bat biologist who has been working with ESI for six years, said another team from the company initiated the bat study last year. She said the mist net survey has two components and attempts to determine the presence or probable absence of a particular species.
    “We follow guidelines and standardized procedures established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for mist netting,” Ardito said. “This helps to maximize our potential for the safe capture of bats and also reduces the possible spreading of white-nose syndrome in bats.”
    The northern long-eared bat is a threatened species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and is found in 38 states. White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease known to affect bats, is currently the primary threat to this bat.
    The final results of the survey will be analyzed and published at a later date. The two biologists said they began their study by working with the data that had already been gathered and analyzed by the first-year surveyors.
    Shafer, an ESI technician, said there are two parts involved in the process of collecting information. Mist netting alone does not provide sufficient data to determine bat population size or species structure. She said they also use audio detection software that identifies bats by the frequencies each species produces.
    “The software can potentially identify those animals not captured through mist netting,” Shafer said. “We had an idea of what types of bats were here because of the analyzed data from last year.”
    Ardito said the capture of bats confirms their presence, but failure to catch bats does not confirm their absence. She said bats could exist in a variety of habitat on Fort Leavenworth.
    “We surveyed 23 acoustic and netting sites on Fort Leavenworth and set up mist netting sufficiently to capture bats that were present here,” Ardito said. “We set up netting along trails and other places where bats will naturally fly. The netting is fine and eludes the echolocation sonar bats emit.”
    Shafer is in her third year working in the field and said there are many misconceptions regarding bats. She said bats are not blind, they eat insects and have teeth.
    “We have basic techniques of handling wildlife. We use gloves to avoid bites,” Shafer said. “Most bats come in contact with humans unintentionally.”
    Neil Bass, the DPW natural resources specialist, said the most common species found on Fort Leavenworth is the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). He said bats are in some of the older buildings on the post and most go unnoticed.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Many of the older historic buildings on Fort Leavenworth are very hard, if not impossible, to seal up all of the small spaces to prevent all types of bats from gaining entry,” Bass said. “There is also almost no real danger associated with having a few bats around. Their insect-eating practices far outweigh any pest risk they may pose.”
    Bass said the May 15 to Aug. 15 is the time window for scientists to catch bats in mist nets. He said there is an agreement for the Army to coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
    “In essence, the Fish and Wildlife Service provided us with dates, times and locations to avoid so as not to impact the northern long-eared bat,” Bass said. “White-nose syndrome disease is a significant issue to these bats because it interrupts their winter hibernation period, causing them to starve because there is no food.”
    Bass said people who engage in spelunking often unwittingly transmit the disease from cave to cave while exploring.
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