The spring migration study of the Indiana Bat that took roost at Hubbard’s Cave in April has helped wildlife researchers locate maternity colonies which could eventually help save the endangered creatures from extinction.
“The project went well,” said Chris Simpson, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Region 3 wildlife diversity coordinator. “We tracked several bats to maternity colonies in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.”
For the first time, a team converged on the cave in Irving College in April attempting to capture Indiana Bats while they were in hibernation.
Workers placed transmitters on the bats, released them, and tracked them using airplanes, trucks and hand-held antennas. It was unknown if the endeavor would be successful.
“This was our first year to be at the cave in Irving College,” said Simpson. “We weren’t sure if the bats would be reachable at the time when we went in but they were. We had good results. We were able to get several out, apply transmitters and we were able to track them.”
Hubbard’s Cave is ecologically significant because it serves as a hibernaculum, a place for the creatures to seek refuge, for two federally endangered bat species, the gray bat (Myotis grisescens) and the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). The cave is known to be the largest gray bat hibernaculum in Tennessee with over 100,000 bats. Many other bat species use this cave too.
While hibernaculum caves used by bats are known by biologists, the trees female bats use for maternity colonies to raise their young are not. Simpson says tracking the bats is important for that reason.
“Indiana bats are the most endangered mammals in Tennessee,” said Simpson.
Work isn’t complete in the study.
“Now comes all the follow-up work like emergence counts and any additional mist netting,” said Simpson.
An emergence count is done twice during the summer. A bat count involves counting bats exiting a roost at sunset. If additional research information on the bats is needed, mist nets are used to capture them. Mist nets are typically made of nylon or polyester mesh and are suspended between two poles.
Given the success of the study, says Simpson, the team will likely return to the cave in the spring of 2016.