Hosts: Shea Hammond (USFWS).

 

Location: Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge, OK

 

The Southeastern Bat Diversity Network’s (SBDN) 12th Annual Bat Blitz was hosted by the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Oklahoma from July 28th to August 1st, 2013.  Roughly 100 participants from 18 states, including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin volunteered their time for this landscape-scale survey for bats in the Ozark Highlands of northeastern Oklahoma.

 

Eleven experienced bat researchers led teams of about 10 members on intensive mist-netting surveys in the Ozark Highlands of northeastern Oklahoma.  Over three consecutive nights, 28 sites within three counties in northeastern Oklahoma (Adair, Cherokee and Delaware) were sampled for bats.  Netting sites were located within the Ozark Plateau NWR, wildlife management areas owned and managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), and lands owned by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the City of Tulsa, and The Nature Conservancy.  In total, volunteers captured a record 735 bats representing nine different species, including the federally-listed endangered Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens) and gray bat (Myotis grisescens).  The predominant bat species captured during this event were the eastern red (Lasiurus borealis), tricolored (Perimyotis subflavus), northern long-eared (M. septentrionalis), and evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis), while others included the big brown (Eptesicus fuscus), hoary (L. cinereus), and Seminole bat (L. seminolus).  The Seminole bat represents a new county record for this species in Oklahoma.
The data collected as a result of this event will provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the ODWC, and other conservation partners with important information about the occurrence of bat species in northeastern Oklahoma prior to the probable arrival of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome (WNS).  WNS is a devastating bat disease that affects hibernating bats during the winter. Experts estimate that WNS already has killed over 5.7 million bats since first discovered near Albany, New York during the winter of 2006/2007.  Bat-to-bat transmission is believed to be the primary vector for the spread of the fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destuctans) that causes the disease.  Pseudogymnoascus destructans has not been detected in northeastern Oklahoma during annual surveillance efforts, however, laboratory tests recently documented occurrence of the fungus in caves located nearby in northwest and north-central Arkansas.  The fungus is anticipated to continue spreading westward with migrating individuals.  Occurrence data will be used to make informed management decisions and provide important baseline data in the face of WNS.  Swab samples from bats and mist nets were taken during the Blitz and later tested for the presence of P. destructans.  All swab samples were negative.

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