How we’re helping to save endangered bats

On Friday night I had my first bonfire of the season. They’ve become a Friday night tradition since COVID. A way to visit with my friends safely and stay connected. They’re also a chance to watch the bats that fly around the farm.

This week, we have a new addition at the farm to help us keep an eye–or in this case an ear–on the bats. An Anabat Swift acoustic monitor.

What is that you ask?

It’s a recorder that monitors bats.

I signed up for a community science project with the Native Bat Conservation Program at the Toronto Zoo.

For the next few nights, the monitor will be recording the calls of the bats flying around the farm.

Bats are very important ecologically. They pollinate plants, disperse seeds and help control pests like mosquitoes. They are key to a healthy ecosystem. But bat populations have declined dramatically over the last several years. There are 8 species of bats in Ontario and 4 of them are endangered.

Bats are hard animals to study, so scientists are sometimes limited in how much information they have on bats in a particular area. Bats are nocturnal, their roosts can be hard to find, they can be challenging to handle, and their behaviour varies by species and season.

Acoustic monitoring is a way to track and analyse bats.

Throughout the summer, volunteers like us are installing the monitors all over Ontario. The monitor records the bats for 4-5 nights, and then we pass it on to the next volunteer.

The team at the Zoo will analyse the recordings and determine what bats are found in a particular area (each species has its own specific call). Over the fall and winter, they will manually identify all of the calls one by one–thousands and thousands of calls.

The recordings will help the Native Bat Conservation Program to assess what species are found where, what time bats are active, and identify any sites where there are species at risk. The information will be contributed to the North American bat database and help to inform conservation efforts.

We will also receive a personalized report of what species and how many calls were heard at the farm.

I love seeing bats flying around at dusk, and I’m excited to learn more about the bats in our area and how we can help them.

Do you see bats where you live? Have you every participated in a community science project? Are you keeping an eye on any endangered species? Have you had a summer bonfire yet?

2 thoughts on “How we’re helping to save endangered bats

  1. That’s a really cool project. It’s sad that the bat populations are declining. I wonder if it’s from climate change or reduced habitat, or whether there’s another reason? There is a park right by our old house where, if you go for a walk around twilight, you can see the bats swooping around above. It’s really cool. They are quite small bats, but sometimes there are lots of them.

    • A lot of bats suffer from White Nose Syndrome. This affects their hibernation sleep and they wake up, can’t find food and then starve. Five of the eight bat populations here in Ontario are affected by WNS, and the population is down more than 90%. I’m sure climate change and reduced habitat are also impacting them.

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