Forest Service goes batty with live webcast from Texas

Visitors gather at Bracken Cave near San Antonio, Texas, to experience the nightly flight of millions of Mexican free-tailed bats. Photo courtesy of: Bat Conservation International.

Educational online seminar aimed at building awareness about bat conservation and ecology

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — As white-nose syndrome devastates bat colonies across the country, resource managers and conservation biologists have been struggling to help people understand how just important the flying mammals are to American agriculture and ecosystems.

For many people bats are one of those semi-mythical animals — associated with Halloween and vampires, Meanwhile, their role  as incredibly valuable pollinators and voracious predators of insects is overlooked.

Next week, the Forest Service will try and create more awareness about bats with a live educational webcast (Sept. 18) from Bracken Cave near San Antonio, Texas, home of the world’s largest bat colony, to help students across the country learn about one of the most misunderstood yet beneficial creatures in the world.

The webcast is a part of BatsLIVE! A Distance Learning Adventure, a free education program that aims to bring the best of bat information and research to help children understand the value of bats and the conservation challenges they face. Continue reading

Colorado: Legal battle over bat caves brewing

Conservation group files lawsuit challenging BLM permits to visit caves

A battle over protecting bats and bats caves is brewing in Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — State and federal resource managers in Colorado have been at odds over a decision to permit the National Speleological Society to visit several caves later this month when the caving group holds its annual convention in Glenwood Springs. A national conservation group, the Center for Biological Diversity, is now challenging the permit in federal court.

Despite warnings from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the federal Bureau of Land Management last month issued a permit for  several caves on BLM land in the northwestern part of the state.

According to the BLM, the caves are not used extensively by bats. but state biologists said previously there has been some documented use of the caves by Townsend’s big-eared bats, a species of special concern in Colorado. Click here to read about state bat conservation efforts. The CDOW white-nose syndrome response plan can also be seen here.

The cavers — a conscientious group — have agreed to strict conditions to try and protect bat populations from the spread of white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that’s wiping out bats in the eastern part of the U.S. Bats play a key ecosystem role by pollinating many commercial crops and wild plants, and by keeping insect populations in check. Read this story to learn more. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds launch national plan to save bats

National strategy for combating bat-killing white-nose syndrome focuses on research. management to prevent transmission and finding treatments

Bats are key pollinators and have a huge role in eating harmful insects. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal and state wildlife agencies and land managers across the country are teaming up to slow the spread of a bat-killing disease that has no known cure.

The highest priorities in a new national plan for combating white-nose syndrome are research and management strategies aimed at minimizing the risk of humans further spreading the disease. All the federal documents on white-nose syndrome are online here.

Researchers will investigate whether the commercial trafficking of bat guano increase the risk of spreading the disease, and work with cave owners to develop guidelines for access the lessens the risk of transmission. They will also look for potential biological and chemical treatments for infected bats, and try to figure how and why the disease developed so suddenly in North American bat populations. Continue reading

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