Why is the park interested in bats?
Bats are an important part of ecosystems and food webs. Though some species of bats feed on fruit, seeds, or pollen, the species that live in Virginia are insectivores. They consume huge numbers of insects every night, filling a unique ecosystem role as nocturnal insect predators. Unfortunately, a new disease called white-nose syndrome is affecting bats across the United States. To better protect bats, biologists are studying how local bat populations are changing.
- Recent monitoring detected eight species of bats in the park, including two federally threatened or endangered species.
- White-nose syndrome has negatively impacted several species of bats.
- Importantly, the most common bat detected in the park was the little brown bat—a state endangered species.
How do biologists study bats? What have they learned about bats in the park?
Biologists have creative ways of studying these unique animals. Bats use echolocation to navigate and catch insect prey during the dark of night. People can’t hear these bat calls, so biologists use special microphones, called acoustic detectors, to record the sounds. By analyzing the bat calls, biologists can identify which specific bat species are present in an area during certain times of the year.
From 2016-2017, scientists used acoustic detectors to document eight species of bats in the park. The most commonly detected bat was the state endangered little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). This is surprising as little brown bats have suffered tremendous recent declines as a result of white-nose syndrome.