Sunday, June 27, 2010
The United States Department of Agriculture has launched a $1.1 million dollar effort to preserve the habitat of the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalist) in Pennsylvania. The bat was placed on the endangered species list in 1967. USDA Pennsylvania State Biologist Barry Isaacs says the Indiana bat looks like the much more common Little Brown bat but it has not adapted to humans as well. The Little Brown bat will roost in man-made structures but the Indiana bat continues to roost under the bark of dead tress and some species of live hickory and elm. The money will be spent over three years to purchase 99-year and 30-year conservation easements and 10-year cost share agreements. Isaacs says the easements will not necessarily mean there will be no commercial logging on the land but any cutting would have to be done with the bat’s habitat in mind. Along with the right kind of trees the USDA will look for forested acreage along creeks and streams. Isaacs says people think the riparian zones help the bats to better hide from predators like owls while providing more flying water insects for dinner. A special rating tool has been created to make sure the best habitat possible is being preserved. Isaacs says it will not guarantee that bats are living in the areas protected but it will help to pick the right areas to protect. Several counties have been selected for the program including Adams, York, Bedford, Berks, Blair, and Greene Counties. Along with the loss of habitat the Indiana bats have fallen victim to white nose syndrome. The fungal growth is being found in winter hibernacula and has been linked to the deaths of more than a million bats. The goal is to protect about 300 acres in the first year of the program.