Support Bat Research, Management, and Monitoring in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
PI: Bill Stiver (Great Smoky Mountains National Park Supervisory Wildlife Biologist)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) has been very responsive to the management and monitoring of bats and white-nose syndrome (WNS) including implementing cave and area closures; development of educational materials; population and acoustic monitoring; and collaboration with researchers, as well as state and federal biologists. The 2016 National Park Service WNS funds were used to hire a seasonal technician to continue supporting bat monitoring and management efforts in GRSM and to provide financial support for qualified personnel to assist with bat hibernacula surveys. We also provided administrative and logistical support and equipment for five bat research projects in GRSM and purchased miscellaneous supplies needed for GRSM bat monitoring.
Four caves in GRSM were surveyed in 2016, none of which had been surveyed since 2011. All of the caves showed significant decreases in the total number of cave-dwelling bats, including a 94.4% decline of endangered Indiana bats in a cave that historically housed more than 2,400 individuals. Acoustic driving transect surveys were also completed, and based on the number of calls there was an increase in big brown bats, eastern red bats, evening bats, tri-colored bats and a decrease in hoary bats, silver-haired bats and Myotis species. Data collected from this monitoring effort, as well as other bat research projects in GRSM will provide management staff with the information needed to make informed decisions about closures and other management actions that may affect park visitors and resources. Information will also be used to enhance the development of a GRSM action plan for Indiana and northern long-eared bats.