By JIM ABRAMS
While venturing into the kitchen one morning for that important blast of caffeine, I noticed something clinging to the screen of one of the windows. I walked over and was somewhat surprised to see a bat napping in its strangely inverted posture. This gave me the perfect opportunity for a close inspection, but with its head tucked a positive identification was tough. In the end, my best guess was that it was a little brown bat since it’s considered one of Ohio’s most common.
Contrary to what many believe, bats aren’t mice or rats that have miraculously mounted wings with the job of terrifying people and using those sporting big hair as landing zones. They belong to their own special scientific group called Chiroptera, which envelopes the nearly l,l50 species inhabiting every continent accept Antarctica.
Chiroptera is derived from two Greek words; “cheiro” (hand) and “pteron” (wing). It aptly describes the skin that stretches between elongated arm and finger bones to form the bat’s avionic capabilities. Now I know that you may say that animals have legs and not arms, but I thinks arms and fingers offer a better description.
There are 10 bats that can be found in Ohio: big brown, little brown, eastern red, evening, eastern small-footed, hoary, Indiana, northern long-eared, silver-haired and tri-colored. All are listed as “species of concern” except for the northern long-eared bat, which is “threatened,” and the Indiana bat, which is classified “endangered.”
It’s important to understand what these listings actually mean. There are six basic levels of classification for animals facing biological threat of population reduction.
• Wildlife species of the “special interest” category include any animal that occurs periodically and is capable of breeding in Ohio. It’s at the edge of its range and has low breeding densities in the state. It hasn’t been released as part of enhancing Ohio’s wildlife diversity. Except for conserving already occupied areas, little management is dedicated toward it since it’s unlikely to influence population trends.
• A “species of concern,” such as the bat I found resting on my window screen, is in danger of becoming “threatened” if it remains under continued stress. This category also includes animals for which there is some concern, but for which information is insufficient to permit an adequate status evaluation. This group can contain furbearer and game species whose population is dependent upon high-quality or quantity of habitat; a population that will not be impacted by regulated harvest.
• “Threatened” wildlife includes species whose survival in Ohio is not in immediate jeopardy, but that threat exists. Continued or increased stress will result in its becoming endangered.
• “Endangered” wildlife is threatened with extirpation from the state. The danger may result from one or more causes, such as habitat loss, pollution, predation, interspecific competition or disease.
• “Extirpated” is a designation for wildlife that occurred in Ohio at the time of European settlement and that has since disappeared from the state.
• “Extinct”: Defunct, vanished, inexistent, wiped out, finished, gone, disappeared — forever dead.
Despite the ecological importance of bats, they remain one of the most understudied mammals. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 17 percent are categorized as “data deficient” and 21 percent are categorized as “threatened” or “near threatened” on a worldwide scale.
Population declines in bats can be attributed to a variety of factors, including changing landscapes, human persecution, disease and wind energy development. Declines are not often detected early because population size and density is difficult to estimate. Recovery from serious population decline is also a slow process since females typically only give birth to one or two pups a year.
After the devastating white-nose syndrome (a fatal fungus-related disease) was discovered in the state, the Ohio Division of Wildlife established a mobile acoustic monitoring program to survey bat populations and travel. The goal is to observe changes in bat abundance over time in Ohio. This study will also provide an opportunity to join the continent-wide monitoring effort called NABat, which encompasses all of North America.
Learn more about the division’s research and the status of Ohio’s bat populations by searching Mobile Bat Acoustic Survey at wildlife.ohiodnr.gov
“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” — John James Audubon
“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, ‘What good is it?'” — Aldo Leopold
Along the way:
The Division of Wildlife has completed its 2019 acorn mast survey on 38 wildlife areas throughout Ohio and the results were a mixed batch of nuts. What is “mast” and why is it important?
Mast is a general term referring to the reproductive crop — nuts, seeds, buds, or fruits of trees and shrubs — that are associated with foods important to wildlife. It’s divided into two categories: “hard mast” and “soft mast.”
Hard mast consists of the hard-shelled nuts like those found on hickory, beech, walnut and oak trees. Soft mast are those seeds covered in a fleshy fruit like crabapples, blueberries, domestic fruits, raspberries and serviceberries. The term is sometimes used to include winged seeds of maples and elm, pines and even buds, hips and catkins.
The survey concentrates on evaluating acorn crop distribution and abundance. While it’s true that all biological mast can have an important impact as food sources for wildlife, biologists judge the hard mast crop to be very critical especially as a winter food source due to its higher energy content. Acorns provide a food source for more than 90 forest species in Ohio, helping them to survive the harsh winter.
Some species, such as red oaks, produce seeds only once every two years. Others, such as white oaks, produce seeds every year, but occasionally have years where an entire population of trees produces an unusually large number of acorns all together. These bumper crop years are known as “mast years.”
It’s believed that this variable but synchronous seeding evolved as a natural survival strategy. During good mast years, so many seeds are produced that wildlife can’t gobble them all, leaving plenty to sprout into the next generation.
Results indicate that an average of 21.8 percent of white oaks and 64 percent of red oaks bore fruit this year. Acorn production has oscillated from above to below average over the past five years, and this year red oaks were well above the 15-year average, while white oaks were below.
Learn how to manage your own woodlot’s mast crop and provide natural forage for wildlife by visiting http://www.mast-producing-trees.org
• Bowhunters are in the field when peak wildlife activity is taking place. The Division of Wildlife’s bowhunter survey utilizes those activities to monitor a variety of wildlife populations. Bowhunters record the date, number of hours they hunted and species they saw. After the season, participants receive a customized summary of their data that includes a breakdown of their information and hours they hunted in each county. If you would like to sign up for next year, visit https://ohdnr.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5oTj3UF9qOek57f
• Special controlled hunting opportunities are available to Ohio residents at the recently purchased Andreoff Wildlife Area in Hardin County. Hunts are for those who have never hunted or harvested the pursued species in mentor-style hunts for deer, waterfowl and pheasants. Additional waterfowl hunts are available for veteran hunters. For information regarding hunt eligibility or registration, contact Jaron Beck at 419-429-8324. Registrations are done online at https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/educationregistration
Access to the area is by permit only. No permit is required for wildlife watching on the first and third Sundays of each month, unless otherwise posted. For information, call the Division of Wildlife at 419-424-5000.
• Nov. 14: Ohio Community Wildlife Cooperative Conference, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, Columbus. Explore the role of local government in managing human-wildlife conflict. Register at https://go.osu.edu/ocwc2019
• Nov. 17: Turkey shoot, Annie Oakley’s, 10 birds and protection shotgun competitions. Traps open at noon at Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Township 186, Forest.
• Hunter and trapper education class listings — Nov. 18, 19, 20: Fostoria United Sportsmen, 1324 Springville St., Fostoria. Information and registration information available at http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org