Thanks to the nature-loving citizens of Chicago, researchers from Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute have received numerous emails with helpful suggestions on where bats are living in our city!
Just one example—here's a photo of a eastern red bat provided by John Farabaugh in Hebron, Indiana. Eastern red bats are pretty common around here. They are a migratory species, and, based on our acoustic monitoring on zoo grounds this past summer, we know that they are commonly found in Lincoln Park and the zoo!
Overall, the feedback has been tremendous. People have shared their stories of seeing bats flying around on summer evenings as well as locations of summer colonies in the greater Chicago area. All this information will help Urban Wildlife Institute scientists as they continue with bat studies next summer.
Although bats often fly around un-seen and un-heard, we’re learning just how common they are in the city. Because of their crucial role in pollinating plants and eating crop-pests, bats are of high importance to humans.
Sadly, populations along the eastern United States and Canada are on the decline due to white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that hits bats during hibernation. So far white-nose syndrome has killed more than 5.5 million bats. It’s critical that we learn about our bat populations before this disease strikes Illinois.
Last week, I traveled down to Puerto Rico to attend the North American Symposium on Bat Research. Much attention was given to the spread of white-nose and what we can all do to help slow it down.
Puerto Rico is a great place to discuss bats. It’s home to 13 different species, ranging from the insect-eating big brown bat to the fishing bat, which scoops up fish from rivers with its long toes. The importance of bats in ecosystems is extraordinarily diverse, and we are just starting to understand their crucial role in cities.
Creative Commons picture of a fishing bat in Panama. Individuals use echolocation to find ripples on the water’s surface and drag long toes through the water to pick up fish. Photo by Zach Welty.
Julia Kilgour, M.S., is a project coordinator in Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute. She's looking for your help to find large bat colonies in the area to study! Send your bat photos, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Puerto Rican conservation is also the subject of tonight's sold-out Wine & Wildlife: Puerto Rican Plumage. This conservation celebration shares efforts to save the Puerto Rican parrot, one of the most endangered birds in the world.