[Sounds of a bat echolocating]
Jessie Bunkley – The sound you are hearing is a bat echolocating through the darkness of the night. Bats use sound to detect their surroundings. They produce frequencies that are much higher than what we’re able to hear and as those sound waves hit objects in front of them and reflect off the bats interpret the echoes to sense their environment. What you’re hearing is a bat detector that has taken these high frequency sounds and cut them down to a level that we can hear.
Adam Brewerton – I’m Adam Brewerton. I’m the wildlife conservation biologist for the Northern Region with the Division of Wildlife Resources.
Jessie – And I’m Jessie Bunkley. I’m a wildlife technician with UDWR.
Adam – And our bat survey tonight out at Antelope Island we’ve been pretty successful so far. We’ve caught a little brown bat and we’ve caught seven Townsend’s big-eared bats. It’s part of the statewide species distribution and occupancy study and we’ve got several survey locations that have been randomly selected out of a grid system. So Antelope Island is just one of those randomly selected sites. In addition to that it’s also close and convenient for people to come out and learn about bats so that’s why we’ve invited [the] public to come out and join us tonight.
Jessie – To capture the bats we’ve set up several mist nets, which are very long, fine nets. We have stacked the nets two or three nets high and we use a pulley system to raise and lower them.
Adam – They fly into the net and they get caught and tangled. We go get the bats out as gently as we can and we come back for the measuring and weighing and identifying. It helps us to track relative species occurrence throughout the state. So being able to say that the species is doing well or declining or increasing. We can really only say that based off of how frequently we catch it in different places relative to other species.
[Bats echolocating and squeaking in the background]
Jessie – Bats are the second most diverse group of mammals, right behind rodents. There are over twelve hundred species of known bats throughout the world and this represents about twenty percent of all mammals. In Utah we have eighteen species that regularly occur in the state.
Adam – The wing membranes connect all their fingers together so their hand is shaped very much like ours, their thumb sticks up with a little claw hook on it, and then that membrane stretches between their finger digits. They’re cool because they’re interesting, they’re unique, they’re the only mammals that fly, they’re skeletal structure is totally different than other mammals, they echolocate, they’re intelligent, social, they live in a completely foreign world that we can’t really understand how they view the world through echolocation. What makes them interesting too is just so much that we don’t know and [there is] so much more to learn about them.
Jessie – For Wild About Utah that was Adam Brewerton and I’m Jessie Bunkley signing off from Antelope Island State Park.
Bats & Echolocation, Holly Strand, Wildaboututah, https://wildaboututah.org/bats-and-echolocation/
Bat Echolocation recordings from the Western Soundscape Library at the University of Utah Marriott Library,
Images: Courtesy US FWS and USDA Forest Service
Text: Jessie Bunkley. Wildlife technician, Utah DWR/Jessie Bunkley, Graduate Teaching Assistant, BNR, Utah State University
Sources & Additional Reading
Bat Conservation International. 1997. Bat Chat: An Introduction to Echolocation
Wilson, Don E. 1997 Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC https://www.amazon.com/Bats-Question-Smithsonian-Answer-Book/dp/1560987391
Bats Live, Prince William County Public Schools, Manassas, VA, https://batslive.pwnet.org/
Bat Week 2015
Sometimes misunderstood, bats are important and fascinating animals. Watch this video to learn some bat facts, find out what challenges are facing bats today and what you can do to help #savethebats.
Bat Week Video from USGS, US FWS and The Organization for Bat Conservation
13 Facts About Bats, US Department of the Interior, Blog, 10/24/2016, https://www.doi.gov/blog/13-facts-about-bats