Later in the evening, the students returned for a trip highlight- bat mist netting. What is bat mist netting you may ask (as I did). Mist netting is an effective and safe way of capturing both birds and bats. Very lightweight, almost invisible, nylon nets are strung between two poles over a highly trafficked area. In our case, we strung three nets over ponds, very close to the water's surface.
Kent and Kim carefully setting up the mist nets
USFWS Wildlife biologist, Kent Woodruff, led the evening and proved to be an excellent source of information. However, early on he stated that bat knowledge is very limited, especially here in the Methow Valley. "The answer to most questions about bats is 'I don't know.'" He attributes the lack of knowledge to the difficult task of these small flying mammals, and to the lack of funding/support for research. Unfortunately, bats often have a negative association in our society and aren't the cuddly animals that people are willing to support and protect. While research and understanding surrounding bats is often limited, it is clear that they do play an important role in our ecosystem and are often referred to as a 'keystone' species.
Anticipation grew as the nets were assembled and dusk arrived. The group of 25 students and Basecamp guests sat patiently and quietly on logs surrounding the ponds and waited for the bats to arrive. Soon the first bats were spotted and excitement grew as more quickly arrived. It was clear everyone was enjoying watching the acrobatic show the bats put on but also anxious for the first bat capture.
After 20 minutes of waiting, our patience was rewarded with the capture of the Methow Valley's smallest bat species. Weighing about the same as a penny, California Mytois bat (myotis californicus) is found along the west coast of America; from British Columbia, Canada to as far south as Guatemala.
The group assembled around Kent as he identified the bat. He identified our bat by it’s keeled calcar (a cartilaginous spur of the ankle joint that extends toward the tail), small feet, color and facial features.
Pointing out the Keeled Calcar
There are approximately 1100 bat species across every continent (except Antarctica). Here in Washington State we have 15 bats species, 8 of which are currently listed federally as Category 2 Candidates, meaning adequate information is lacking to list them as endangered species. However, it is hypothesized that they should receive that designation. Across the nation approximately 40 percent of bat species are currently threatened.
How can you help?
- Support bat conservation and research organizations;
- Help increase bat habitat;
- Put up bat houses (http://batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/install-a-bat-house.html)
- Leave hollow trees and snags intact
- Do not disturb roosting or hibernating bats
- Minimize pesticide use
Interested in learning more about Bats in Washington?
Basic facts about bats from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
The recent (and first!) conservation plan for bats in Washington State
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Live Bat Cam
Bats Northwest; a non-profit to protect bats through education and research
Methow Grist Video
Methow Grist Video