DO YOU CATCH A BAT?
back my grandson Parker asked, Grandpa, how do you catch a bat?
considered saying, I dont. Instead, I said, I
know someone who studies bats. Lets have her show us.
is Joy OKeefe, director of the Center for Bat Research, Outreach
and Conservation at Indiana State University. She recently demonstrated
one technique for catching a bat, and its not easy.
interest was in recording which bats were present and examining them
as part of her research. One method of bat inventory is the mist net.
Imagine a volleyball net made of thread so thin that a bats echolocation
signals do not bounce back as readily as they do from a solid tree trunk
or building. The result flying bats get tangled in the net. The
six nets we set that night ranged from 20 to 40 feet long. Bats can
fly at night by using echolocation, which allows them to find insect
prey and to avoid physical structures. However, bats have tiny eyes
and can see in the daytime. They are occasionally active during the
must get to the net and capture the bat before it chews its way free.
Thus, every 10 minutes beginning at dusk, we took turns checking mist
nets to see if a bat had been caught. Some nets were in the woods, but
two were strung across our stream.
Joy and her husband, Mark Vukovich, waded waist-deep in cold water to
set and check the mist nets, I kept careful watch from the bridge over
the stream. Somebody had to stay dry to take notes.
more than 45 kinds of bats found in the United States, the eastern red
bat and the evening bat are among those present in the Southeast. We
caught several of each kind that night and saw how terrifying a bat
can look up close. Parkers dad wondered if perhaps George Lucas
got ideas for some of his creepy "Star Wars" characters from
a personal encounter with a bat.
an earlier generation, I tried to recall if Bela Lugosi had such vicious-looking
fangs in the movie Dracula," but Joy knows how to handle
a bat, taking measurements of each ones weight and wing spread
and identifying its sex.
more to bats than just a formidable beastlike face with a mouthful of
sharp teeth. Each time Joy released one, we watched as it disappeared
into the surrounding night and marveled at one of the most graceful
flying creatures imaginable.
red bats are beautiful. Males have a soft, furry, reddish-orange coat.
Females are more yellowish. Red bats have a broad tail and big wings
that they use like a catchers mitt to capture moths and beetles
in flight. Evening bats are darker and kind of scary looking, and they
smell like burnt wood. But they too are awesome in flight.
came prepared with a technological device used in bat research
an Anabat bat detector. When turned on, the device registers the ultrasonic
echolocation sounds of bats in the vicinity. The Anabat revealed that
three more species were flying around that night, although we did not
catch any of them. That's something to look for in the mist nets another
time when Joy pays a visit to our land.
biologists are concerned about a type of fungus that can grow on the
exposed skin of bats and cause death during hibernation. It is known
as white-nose syndrome, or WNS.
origin is unknown, but it has been found on bats in Europe and Asia.
Part of Joys research is to determine if bats in our region are
infected. Because WNS is contagious among bats, she takes great care
to wear a new set of gloves for each bat, washes the nets after use
and doesnt let observers touch them. That part was fine with me.
you have an environmental question or comment, email