2012 Bat Blitz


Hosts: Holly Ober (University of Florida) and Melissa Tucker (FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).

Location:  Apalachicola National Forest, FL

 The 11th Annual Southeastern Bat Diversity Network’s Bat Blitz took place May 20-24, 2012 in and around the Apalachicola National Forest. Ninety wildlife biologists, managers, educators, students, and others interested in bats volunteered their time to conduct a landscape-scale survey of bat activity in and around the Apalachicola National Forest during the 11th annual SBDN Bat Blitz. Sixty-four of these individuals were registered Bat Blitz participants, and 26 additional local agency staff participated in capacities such as escorts of survey teams to survey sites, as educators during the outreach event, or as contacts with local media. Participants represented ~30 agencies and organizations, including state and federal agencies, private consulting companies, non-profit organizations, zoos, and universities. Participants came from 15 states, traveling from as far away as Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Indiana.

Survey sites were located in a region of the Florida Panhandle that stretched ~80 km east to west, and ~65 km north to south. This region encompassed parts of Calhoun, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla counties. Within this region, ~150 potential survey sites were visited by members of the Blitz planning team to assess suitability for bat mist netting during the 5 months preceding the event. These sites were located in areas suspected to be used by foraging bats (over ponds, streams, and rivers where bats may feed, or along densely forested roads that may serve as bat travel corridors).

During the Blitz, 31 sites were surveyed over the course of 3 nights; 9-11 sites were surveyed each night. Sites were located on federal, state, and private lands including Apalachicola National Forest, Joe Budd Wildlife Management Area, Torreya State Park, Wakulla Springs State Park, Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve (owned by TNC), and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

We captured 245 bats during the three night Blitz, with an average of 91 bats per night, and 8 bats per site. The maximum number of bats caught at any one site was 57 (predominantly Myotis austroriparius, the Southeastern bat, near a bridge in Wakulla Springs State Park), followed by 42 (predominantly Tadarida braziliensis, the Brazilian free-tailed bat, at a bridge functioning as a roost site in Apalachicola National Forest). Only 3 of the 31 sites sampled had zero capture success.

Eight species were captured: Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii – CORA), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus – EPFU), red bat (Lasiurus borealis – LABO), Seminole bat (Lasiurus seminolus – LASE), Southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius – MYAU), evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis – NYHU), tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus – PESU), and Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida braziliensis – TABR). The most widespread species (those caught at the greatest number of sites) were LASE, NYHU, LABO, and MYAU. The four remaining species, PESU, EPFU, TABR, and CORA, were relatively uncommon

The outreach event, held at Wakulla Springs State Park on May 20, taught many local people about the biology of bats and conservation issues surrounding bats. Educators came from the Florida Bat Conservancy, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Georgia Division of Natural Resources, Pebble Hill Grove, University of Florida, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest 4 Service. Displays and handouts provided information on bat conservation issues; the bats of Florida; bat houses; the roles of bats as pollinators, seed dispersers, and controllers of insect pests; and forests of Florida. Live bats, reptiles, and amphibians were also on display. Lastly, kids were able to make bat arts and crafts and get their faces painted. Reporters went to the field with 4 different survey team leads on May 22 and 23 to witness the capture effort.