Bat Night with U.S. Fish and Wildlife

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I contacted the US Fish and Wildlife guys about the bats coming to the hummingbird feeders each night because they are doing a study on nectar feeding bats in Arizona. The wildlife guys showed up shortly after 7 pm. The bats were already on the feeders.

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The wildlife guys set up to big mist nets in front of the feeders to try to catch a few bats. They measure the bat, weigh the bat, take a DNA sample and let the bat go. (It is hard to take photo of a net in the dark)

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Above is a photo of a netted bat. They get pretty tangled up in the net.

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The US fish and wildlife guys very carefully remove the bat from the net, they are very gentle removing the bats from the net.

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As you can see… the little bat is fine. It is amazing to see a bat up this close. They look so much smaller all tucked in than they do when they are flying. The bats coming to our feeder were Lesser Long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris curasoae) A species that feeds on the nectar. They migrate up from northern Mexico and arrive in south-central Arizona when columnar cactus begin flowering in late spring. The bats drink the nectar and then eat the fruit of saguaros while moving east across southern Arizona. During late summer and early fall the lesser longed-nosed bats reach southeast Arizona where their primary food source becomes agaves and urban hummingbird feeders. Lesser long-nosed bats are federally listed as an endangered species in both the U.S. and Mexico

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They swab the bats mouth to get the DNA sample and put the sample in a little vile that they have marked with info on location. A study being done is using this DNA to find out more about the bats.

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They measure the bats wing… well actually the length of one of the bones in the wing.

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Put a little mark on its head with a marker so if they catch the same bat, they won’t put it through all the measuring and DNA collecting, they just let it go. The marker mark wears off in a few days or weeks. So far they have found no good way to tag a bat. They can not be leg banded like birds because of the way their feet are designed, the band would slip off. Though they could be wing tagged, that would puncture their skin and could lead to infection so they don’t wing tag them either. A few of the bats in this year’s study had tiny radio transmitters put on them. The transmitters are so tiny that the batteries only last a few weeks. They are actually glued on the bats, they fall off during the bat grooming itself but they stayed on long enough for the study to find out where the bats went, how far they traveled and where they were living.

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They look at its overall condition. Check what sex it is and if female, if it was nursing this year. They can tell if it was a nursing bat by whether its fur has been rubbed down near its nipples. Bats are mammals, they nurse their young just like any other mammal. The wildlife guys told us that bats can mate, but then hold the sperm or fertilized egg until conditions are right to continue with the pregnancy. If there is not enough food, the egg never develops.

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Then weigh it. Once all that is done they let the little guy/gal go.

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Amazing little creatures, bats. If you look at the photo above and imagine your arm and hand you can see that a bat’s wing is actually a webbed hand with super long fingers. The little claw at the top of the wing would be the thumb.

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Look how darn cute the little guys are. They remind me of tiny tiny puppies. We only caught two bats that night in the net. Both were female, and neither had been a nursing mother. They may have been this year’s baby bats all grown up.

To see the difference between lesser long nosed and Mexican long tonged bats see the membrane on the legs of lesser long nosed bats is deeply cut giving the appearance of wearing a pair of pants. The Mexican Long-tongued Bat is slightly smaller with a longer snout than the Lesser Long-nosed. The membrane between the legs is not so deeply incised and has been described as a “skirt.”

More cool bat links


~ by Meg on October 10, 2009.

8 Responses to “Bat Night with U.S. Fish and Wildlife”

  1. cool this guy looks cute

  2. That’s pretty cool!

  3. Amazing. Great photos of the bats.

  4. WOW! This is awesome!

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