The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
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 vol. 41. iss. 2, June 2006
Mysterious Dead Bats in California
by Brooke Slack (BGG, bat researcher).

Dear Editor: Submitted is a quick news item about bats being found emaciated in Northern California.  Although large numbers of dead bats haven’t been found in KY, most bat researchers have been battling inclement weather.  The unseasonably cool weather this spring and early summer could be affecting bats’ foraging patterns and therefore capture success during surveys. {Slack has appeared in KY Caver previously. for more about her goto issue 2 2006.}

Dead emaciated bats are being found in yards around Northern California, possibly starving as a consequence of the cold, wet spring.  The weather, which has been unseasonably cold all across the US, could be suppressing the insect populations which bats rely upon for food. However, there is no scientific data showing that insect numbers are low enough to cause a bat famine.  Reports from people nursing the starving bats they have found in their backyards say their ribs and backbones are showing and the abdomen appears sunken.  Although disease and infection cannot be ruled out, some scientists, including bat experts and entomologists, suggest that the usual springtime proliferation of insects is delayed this season, and bats could be suffering as a result.

Bats can eat up to one-third to one-half of their body weight each night.  Mosquitoes are starting to emerge, but they aren’t enough to sustain the bats.  Moths and beetles, which provide more nourishment and are bigger in size, are what the bats need to survive.

Some of the bats being found include species we have here in the eastern U.S. such as the hoary bat, Lasiurus cinerus, and the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus.  The hoary bat migrates to South America for the winter from North US and Canada.

little brown bat hibernates in caves during the winter months here in the U.S.

Now is the time bat biologists go out and to capture bats.  From late April to early September, bats here in Kentucky forage for insects to build up their fat reserves which they depend on through the winter months when they hibernate or migrate.  Bats typically emerge at dusk to forage and if the temperatures are too low and insects aren’t out, the bats will go into torpor to preserve fat stores and wait out the low temperatures. But the weather for the month of May has been very cold, dropping below 50 degrees F on most nights before midnight.    Most researchers here in KY are having little to no success in capturing bats, they just aren’t flying.

If you find a sick or injured bat, DO NOT HANDLE IT!  Put a box over the animal and keep all pets and children away.  Notify your state fish and wildlife biologist as soon as possible.

Recent Excellent Time Spent at Great Salpetre (Cave) Preserve:  Teaching and Eating
by Hilary Lambert (BGG & KEEP).

May 12: Education
One of the arduous but rewarding tasks taken on by the cavers active at Great Salpetre (Cave) Preserve (and this could include you, if it does not already) is teaching others – Scouts, schoolkids, local residents – about caving, cave conservation, and groundwater protection in vulnerable karst areas.

(cover picture page 1 kids letting off steam after their caving experiences.)

Here’s the call for help that Deb Bledsoe sent out:

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