State Game Commission biologists are seeking assistance from residents in a regional monitoring effort to collect bat maternity colony data this summer. The monitoring is especially important due to the mortalities in bat populations throughout the northeastern U.S., including Pennsylvania, being caused by white-nose syndrome, or WNS.
"WNS primarily kills during the winter, but the true impact ... on bat populations cannot be determined using estimates from winter hibernacula alone," said Calvin Butchkoski, Game Commission wildlife biologist. "Pennsylvanians can help us more fully gauge the impact of WNS on the landscape by hosting a bat count this summer. We are especially urging people who have ever conducted a bat count for the Game Commission in the past to redo a count this year."
To obtain applications and information on how to participate, visit the Game Commission's website at www.pgc.state.pa.us and click on "Wildlife" in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, click on "Wildlife" in the drop-down menu, scroll down and choose "Pennsylvania Bats" in the Mammal section, and then click on "Appalachian Bat Count" in the Reference listing.
Forms on the website guide interested participants through the steps of timing, conducting a survey and submitting their findings to the Game Commission. Scout groups, 4-H clubs, local environmental organizations, and individual homeowners all can participate in this important effort.
"Pennsylvania's two most common bat species, the little brown bat and the big brown bat, use buildings as their summer roosts," Butchkoski said. "Abandoned houses, barns, church steeples - and even occupied structures - can provide a summer home to female bats and their young.
"Monitoring these 'maternity colonies' can give biologists a good idea of how bat populations in an area are doing from year to year," he added. "With the occurrence of WNS in Pennsylvania this year, monitoring these colonies is more important than ever."
Butchkoski said the fieldwork isn't difficult to do, and Pennsylvanians can play a huge role in helping the Game Commission get a better understanding of what is happening to bats this summer.
"We're looking for some help, and we hope you'll consider becoming part of the Appalachian Bat Count monitoring team," Butchkoski said. "It's a chance to make a difference for bats and to get involved in assessing the impact of WNS. Please consider lending a hand. Bats need you more than ever."