An endangered Indiana bat that spent last summer in Pennsylvania has set the record for the longest migration for its species.
According to Pennsylvania Gaming Commissionthe bat was found in a cave in Kentucky this winter, 418 miles from the place in Pennsylvania where commission biologists ringed it last September and placed a tiny radio transmitter on its back.
She is part of a bat migration study conducted by the commission and the little bat, which weighed no more than a few sheets of printer paper or 10 paper clips, was a major contributor to the study.
Four months later, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources biologists found the bat in a wintering cave in Carter County, Ky., during winter surveys of hibernating bats.
If it flew in a straight line on migration, directly from its summer home in Pennsylvania to its hibernation cave in Kentucky, it flew a distance of 418 miles, a record for its species. It is unlikely that it took this trajectory in a straight line and probably traveled even more miles along the way.
The little bat was banded last September at the last known colony of breeding female bats from Indiana to Pennsylvania.
The commission is conducting the Migration Study to discover new hibernation caves and mines and to determine how to best conserve and protect the state’s most vulnerable bat.
The Indiana bat is one of 14 mammal species on the very first official list of endangered species in the United States, which was adopted by Congress in 1966. It was also on the first list created under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. It is also listed as endangered in Pennsylvania, where it is a priority species in the state Wildlife Action Plan .
According to the commission, human entry into winter hibernation sites, other than entry carefully managed by scientists for studies such as migration work, is a primary threat to Indiana fruit bats. because it disturbs the bats and causes them to burn their fat reserves.
In Pennsylvania, most known Indiana bats have used man-made structures for hibernation sites, but the tunnels created by blasting are not as stable as natural caves and are more prone to collapse. which can alter interior habitats or lead to warmer temperatures in the mine.
Alterations to hibernacula and surrounding habitat also threaten bat populations. Development, such as urban sprawl and highways, that removes surface habitat around hibernacula or summer sites results in longer travel distances between foraging areas and day roosts.
- Pennsylvania is developing a 4 million acre plan to help endangered bats
Road traffic can also have an impact. During foraging studies, commission biologists found one Indiana roadkill bat and numerous dead little brown bats. They also found that female Indiana bats from an abandoned church crossed a highway up to eight times a night to return to roost and nurse their young.
Wind turbines pose a threat to all bats. Spring migration telemetry studies in Pennsylvania found that female Indiana bats foraged high on ridgelines where temperatures were 10 to 20 degrees warmer, leading to greater insect activity. The same bats also easily crossed the ridges on their flight path.
Unnatural predation, in the form of feral cats at entrances to hibernation sites during swarming periods, is another threat, while natural predation by owls and black snakes is also regularly observed. But this natural pressure is minimal compared to feral cats.
Bats also have a habit of accumulating contaminants found in pesticides.
And white-nose syndrome is an emerging threat causing the death of an unprecedented number of cave bats in a rapidly growing part of the eastern United States.
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