Georgia discovers Indiana bat colony
--From the Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Before last month, the last time an Indiana bat had been seen in Georgia, Lyndon Baines Johnson was president.
That footnote changed April 14 when private consultants tracked one of the federally endangered bats from a Tennessee cave to a pine snag at Georgia’s Rich Mountain Wildlife Management Area, on the Chattahoochee National Forest near Blue Ridge.
Even better, researchers monitoring the female bat daily since have counted another 13 bats using one of the same roost trees.
How many of the 13 are Indiana bats is not known, although the females do form larger groups in summer. Considering the number of bats and the time the Indiana bat outfitted with the mini transmitter has spent in the area, DNR biologist Trina Morris thinks the find represents the first maternity colony of these imperiled bats in Georgia.
Indiana bats had not been documented in Georgia since fall and winter 1966 at two Dade County caves. Another bat was tracked by telemetry moving through the northwest corner of the state last year.
Morris said the recent discovery is significant and could factor into forest management. Indiana bats gather in maternity colonies under the loose bark of dead or dying trees and in hollow trees.
Keeping snags, or standing dead trees, in the forest “is very important,” said Morris, who heads bat research for the DNR Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section.
Maternity colonies on the southern edge of the species’ range could be even more important if, as some observations seem to indicate, they are less affected by white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed more than 5 million bats.
Threatened by cave disturbances, loss of riparian forests, vandalism, pesticides and now white-nose syndrome, the population of Indiana bats has been halved since the species was listed as endangered in 1967. These small bats that can eat up to half their weight in insects each night are found throughout the Midwest and eastern U.S.
Their name derives from the thousands that hibernate in caves in southern Indiana, forming clusters of up to 500 bats per square foot. After migrating to summer ranges, females give birth in June or July to a single pup each.
Staff from DNR’s Nongame and Game Management sections, the U.S. Forest Service and Copperhead Environmental Consulting will continue to shadow the Indiana bat at Rich Mountain WMA, hoping that she – and her companions – shed more light on this rare find and rare species.
For more about White-Nose Syndrome, visit http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/.