From the Missouri Conservationist Magazine
June 2020 Issue

Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Forest Management | Indiana Bat Conservation

MDC Resource Scientist Kathryn Bulliner held a juvenile Indiana bat up to her headlamp to check it for the tell-tale signs of white-nose syndrome (WNS) — a powdery white fungus along the young bat’s muzzle and wings.

“This disease is killing bats throughout North America, including federally endangered Indiana bats,” she said.

In 2019, Bulliner began field work with a team of research partners to determine if current forest management practices meet the Indiana bat’s summer habitat needs. “Indiana bats spend their winters hibernating in caves and mines, many of which are infected with the WNS fungus,” she said, “But in summer, they migrate to upland forests like those here in north-central and northeast Missouri.”

Bulliner said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has restrictive guidance for timber harvest in areas where Indiana bats are known to summer. “For years the service and other conservation partners have wanted to test the effects of these forest practices on Indiana bats,” she said. “Knowing what works and what doesn’t will help managers plan and conduct their forest management practices with more confidence. And, of course, their efforts will be better for the bats, which need the best summer habitat we can provide.”

Bulliner said researchers believe that good summer habitat can strengthen Indiana bats against the pressures of WNS during hibernation, thereby supporting the endangered species’ overall restoration efforts.

At selected Missouri conservation areas, Bulliner’s team is using several different sampling techniques to measure Indiana bat response to forest management.

“By assessing various metrics over the entire course of the eight-year study, we will directly assess colony persistence relative to management activities,” Bulliner said.

Indiana Bats and Forest Habitat Management at a Glance

Partners: Indiana State University, Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Missouri

The Challenge

Assess bats’ response to forest-management on three pairs of conservation areas: Rebel’s Cove and Mineral Hills; Indian Hills and Atlanta; Charlie Heath and Hidden Hollow

Timeline

2019–2021 Pre-treatment assessment of bat populations and habitat use 2022–2024 Prescribed forest management treatments2025–2027 Posttreatment assessment

Assessing Bat Populations and Habitat Use

  • Acoustic detectors measure Indiana bat presence and habitat-use patterns as well as relative abundance throughout the summer maternity season
  • Radio transmitters track female bats to roosts
  • Simultaneous exit counts track bats at roosts
  • Measure health parameters of adult females and young

Anticipated Benefits

Results will validate or improve forest management guidelines for maternal Indiana bat colonies throughout the 22-state range

Also in this issue

Family Fishing

Make Fishing a Family Tradition

How two families are building bonds that will last a lifetime.

Bear

Living With Wildlife

Learning to thrive with wildlife by your side.

Blue Dasher

Dragons and Damsels

Missouri’s most primitive insects are fearsome predators.

And More...

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This Issue's Staff:

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler