Eye on Nature, Spring 2013 Page: 4
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BCI biologists emerge from cave.
Yazmin A. Avila, Bat Conservation
[Searching Texas Caves for Signs of WNS, continued from poge 2]
Yet just as the threat of WNS raises
the risk of entering caves, it can also
greatly increase the need to do so, albeit
with great care and consideration. The
number of bats hibernating in a site and
the complexity of their underground
environment are critical in setting priori-
ties for limited conservation dollars. And
in most Western states, information about
the locations of bat hibernacula and their
relative importance is very limited.
The risk posed by WNS drives BCI
and our partners to explore alternatives
for counting bats. Remote monitoring
technologies such as thermal imaging,
acoustic monitoring, infrared beam-break
systems and doppler radar ultimately may
let us survey caves without entering
them, but most systems still need addi-
tional testing and development before
they will be available for general use.
In the meantime, we still have many
more questions than answers about
Western bat populations and about cave
myotis in Texas, but we are making
progress. Cave myotis are colonial,
insect-eating bats that usually roost in
caves and mines (and occasionally
buildings and bridges) throughout the
southwestern United States and Mexico.
Some cave myotis colonies are known to
migrate in spring and fall, while others do
not. The reasons for such differences
among colonies are not clear.
Biologists are increasingly concerned
that these populations may be declining -
well before the potential arrival of WNS -
because many known roosts apparently
have been abandoned. But perhaps they
are simply shifting roosts. In Texas, we
hope to find some answers by periodically
surveying a rotating inventory of hiber-
nacula each winter. This should also
provide an early warning of the presence
of WNS. BCI is working with a number of
partners on similar surveying programs
for other bat species around the West,
where the specter of White-nose
Syndrome is a constant fear.
Walking into one of those great
rooms deep underground sometimes
makes me feel insignificant. I become
instantly aware that my whole life is just a
fraction of a second compared with the
timeline of this one chamber. The bat
colony clinging to the rocky ceiling has
probably been using this room for many
of my lifetimes. The individuals in the
colony change, but the colony itself
persists. How many centuries did the bats
need to create this mountain of guano on
the cave floor? Bats have been roosting
here so long that they have permanently
stained the rock a deep reddish-brown. I
am inspired when I think of this enduring
ecosystem. And I am saddened to think
that in a few short decades, many of
these cave rooms filled with bats might
sit empty because of WNS.
We must not let that happen.
Throughout North America, dedicated
bat conservationists and scientists are
working tirelessly to ensure that these
underground rooms will forever be filled
Mylea Bayless is Director of Conservation
Programs at Bat conservation International
working out of Austin.
You can help Bat conservation International
and its partners fight the scourge of White-
nose syndrome and other devastating threats
against bats. Please show your support at
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Texas. Parks and Wildlife Department. Eye on Nature, Spring 2013, periodical, Spring 2013; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth653782/m1/4/: accessed November 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.