Going batty at the BLM

While the field season is winding down and things may have started to become routine, I can promise you that I am not going crazy.  Instead, I am starting to work more with bats now.  For the past couple of weeks I have been putting out audio surveying equipment near water sources to collect bat calls.  The audio equipment records the calls that they use to echolocate and then software at the office can transform the call into a sound range that we can hear and even identify the species of bat making the call.  This is a part of an ongoing effort to learn more about bat distribution in central Oregon, especially determining the distribution and habitat of each individual bat species.  I have really enjoyed this break from my typical routine as it gets me to new areas.  

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Audio recording device at a watering trough.

I am about to transition to working more directly with bats, but not in actual contact with them due to the threats of White-nosed syndrome that has recently been detected in Washington State.  We will be going through decontamination procedures, which are crucial in being able to go into caves safely and minimize and hopefully eliminate the possibility of disease transmission.  My supervisor has many years of experience working with bats, so I will get to learn more about bats from her and watch as she and other experienced professionals remove bats from mist nets and take some measurements that are used to conclusively identify the species.

Recently we headed out before dark to set up mist nets at a cave just outside of Sisters. We drove on Forest Service roads and then parked on a non-descript pullout.  We then proceeded to walk about a quarter of a mile and a cave suddenly appears out of nowhere. I was not expecting a cave out in the middle of the forest, but there it was.  We set up three mist nets near the mouth of the cave and then waited.  Shortly after the sun set (and I think that we even got a couple while it was still light) we started getting bats in the net.  I was not able to handle the bats as I don’t have a rabies shot, so I helped to record data. The bats were removed from the net, the sex, age and species was determined and then we tested them for Pd (white nose syndrome).  In the end we captured four different species of bats (California myotis, Western long-eared myotis, Long-legged myotis and a big brown bat).  This experience turned out to be much more fulfilling than my previous experience, where we were only able to capture one bat the whole night.

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Big-brown bat caught while mist netting.

 Now I leave for a week of vacation touring the National Parks before heading back to work for the BLM and exploring caves and searching for bats.  I am really excited to be able to take a break from work and go explore the West, but I cannot wait to get back and start going Batty with the BLM.

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