Saving the Indiana bat
By : Aaron Wallace
Bats. Scary creatures that suck your blood and turn you into a vampire, right ? Wrong. Bats are not those things that fly in the dark around Halloween. In the United States, there are 54 kinds of bats. The problem is that 7 bats are on the Endangered Species List and 20 more are being considered for listing. Endangered bat species include: the Lesser Long-nosed Bat, Greater Long-nosed Bat, Gray Bat, Indiana Bat, Ozark Big-eared Bat, Virginia Big-eared Bat, and the Hawaiian Hoary Bat. The bats that are of special concern include : California Leaf-nosed Bat, Mexican Long-tongued Bat, Spotted Bat, Allen’s Big-eared Bat, Southeastern Bat, Western Small-footed Bat, Western Long-eared Bat, Eastern Small-footed Bat, Arizona Bat, Fringed Bat, Cave Bat, Long-legged Bat, Yuma Bat, Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat, Western Big-eared Bat, Townsend’s Big-eared Bat, Florida Mastiff Bat, Western Mastiff Bat, Underwood’s Mastiff Bat, and the Big Free-tailed Bat.
Bats are creatures that range in size as in as big as your thumb to as big as your head. Bats can also weigh as much as a penny to a bit more than 35 grams. Bats are usually very small creatures that are often mistaken for mice or a small bird. Now I will talk to you about one of the bats I have listed, the Indiana bat.
The Indiana bat has a range of habitat from Missouri to Maryland and from New Hampshire and Vermont to northern Florida. During the fall and winter it lives in caves that average 3-6ºC (38-43ºF) and with relative humidities of 66-95%. It mates in the fall and hibernates during winter. Females leave the caves before males and arrive at their summer maternity roosts in mid-May. These roosts are usually under bark of trees in woods along streams. In Pennsylvania, about 40 female and baby Indiana bats were found in an abandoned church with 20,000 little brown bats. This maternity roost was the first time this bat was found in buildings.
The Indiana bat is a dark brown to cinnamon brown color. Its lips, nose, and forearms are pinkish. Its ears are about a normal size and the tragus* is short and rounded. Its length is about 77-91 mm (the length of a credit card) and it weighs about 5-8 grams.
Our ecosystem benefits from this animal. For one, it keeps the insect population at a reasonable number by eating them. It also helps promote cave life by producing nutrients in the form of guano, also known as feces or poop, for plants that some cave animals eat. This helps our ecosystem because the definition of an ecosystem is a group of different communities living in the same place at the same time and the cave life is part of our ecosystem.
The Indiana bat is on the Endangered Species List for many reasons. They are killed and eaten by natural predators such as snakes, great horned owls, hawks, falcons, and raccoons. They die from loss of habitat when we destroy their forests to put up homes, buildings, roads, and parking lots. Another reason they die is from pesticide poisoning. Pesticides poison the insect and if a bat eats it the poison is transferred to the bat, killing it. They can also die from floods, fires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. They die from loss of food, insects, when we use pesticide. They die from drastic changes in their habitat such as temperature changes caused by air pollution. All in all the reason they are on the Endangered Species List is because they are being killed off faster than they can reproduce. The total population of Indiana Bats is estimated at fewer than 360,000 with 85% hibernating in only nine caves. These caves have been protected but numbers still are declining.
There are some ways we can help this bat get off the Endangered Species List. We can stop cutting down the forests to put things, like buildings, in their place. We, the community, can work with our local government to pass a law prohibiting lumber companies from cutting down certain forests where the bats live. We can look for ways to stop polluting the air by doing things like car-pooling and buying our homes as close to work as possible. You can even ride your bike or walk to work. This saves the ecosystem and gives you a good workout. Plan vacations closer to your home. A good reason to do these things is because you can save money, especially now that gas costs so much. Boycott factories that produce chemical exhaust if the situation becomes critical. We can try to not pollute the water by trying to stop companies that dump toxic waste in the rivers and the bay from doing so. When we visit a forest we should stop littering everywhere (follow the «Leave no trace» program). Also follow the outdoor code of the Boy Scouts that reads ‘As an American, I will do my best to Be clean in my outdoor manners, Be careful with fire, Be considerate in the outdoors, and Be conservation-minded’ . We should stop destroying their food source with pesticide and instead find another way to keep our crops insect-free (such as using the special netting the Jamaicans use to protect their bananas from insects).
I hope that you consider doing something to help the Indiana bat. You and your community can work together to help this animal.
* tragus- a flap of skin which sticks out of the bottom of the bat’s ear to protect it
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