A State Wildlife Grant project focused on bat conservation and initiated in 2008 provided funding for field surveys, research projects, and planning and implementation of management efforts to benefit Georgia’s bat species. DNR hired biologists to complete emergence counts at caves containing summer roosts for gray bats (Myotis grisescens) and southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius). The information will help Nongame Conservation Section biologists determine the best methods for surveys and establish a baseline for population monitoring at these sites.
Surveys are being completed on numerous WMAs throughout Georgia. Two interns were hired during summer 2010 and worked on several projects across the state. One new project included using radio-telemetry to track the yellow bat (Lasiurus intermedius), a state species of concern found in the southeastern Coastal Plain. The interns assisted a University of Georgia undergraduate (and former DNR intern) on a senior thesis project identifying yellow bat roosts on Sapelo Island. Four bats were tracked to roosts during the summer and important information was collected on yellow bat habitat.
Together with the U.S. Forest Service, the Nongame Conservation Section organized the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network Bat Blitz held at Fort Mountain State Park in July 2010. The blitz provided an opportunity for Georgia agencies to educate the public about bat conservation and receive assistance from bat researchers across the Southeast in a rapid survey of the area for bats. During three nights of sampling, the volunteers surveyed 34 sites and captured 292 bats representing nine species. These included 89 northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis), 41 big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), 73 red bats (Lasiurus borealis), nine little brown bats (M. lucifugus), 65 tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus), seven evening bats (Nycticeius humeralis), one hoary bat (L. cinereus), five small-footed myotis (M. leibii, a state species of concern) and two gray bats (M. grisescens; federally endangered). This capture of gray bats represented a new county record for this species in Georgia.
Genetics samples were taken from 146 bats for the American Museum of Natural History and fecal samples were collected for dietary analysis. Occurrence data will be used to make informed management decisions and provide baseline data in the face of white-nose syndrome.
Much of the current focus of bat conservation in Georgia is preparation for the possible arrival of white-nose syndrome, or WNS, in the state. This devastating disease is killing bats as far south as Tennessee and has been found on bats as far west as Oklahoma. WNS is expected to move farther south during the winter of 2010-2011. Nongame Conservation Section biologists have set up a WNS page on the Wildlife Resources Division website with information on how citizens can help collect information on WNS during this winter. DNR will continue to monitor sites this winter for the possible arrival of WNS.
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