You may have noticed bats flying around your neighborhood at dusk. Have you ever wondered where these creatures hang out during the day when they aren’t on the wing?
Bats are nocturnal creatures and are only seen in Ohio during the warmer months of the year, arriving in March or April and departing for their winter hangouts in the late fall as the weather turns cold. Their summer homes, called maternity roosts, are where these animals give birth and raise their young. Roosts vary with each species of bat depending on their habitat needs.
Ohio is home to 10 species of bats, all of which are experiencing stressors on, and declines in their populations. Indiana bats were the first bat species protected under the 1966 Endangered Species Act due to loss of habitat, mainly from human disturbance of the caves they rely on for winter hibernation. Unfortunately, due to steep population declines, more species have joined the Indiana bat on the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act in the last few years, with habitat loss being a major factor. Bats have been hit very hard by a relatively recent disease called White Nose Syndrome (WNS). This disease increases mortality in bats by disrupting them during their winter hibernation. All bats in Ohio are in trouble and need our help.
Help from Great Parks
Great Parks has focused on bat conservation when identifying priorities for research in recent years. Bat surveys, for example, are a way for us to document the number of species present at a park as well as their population size. Bat surveys at Great Parks first occurred in the early 1990s, when now rare northern long-eared bats and little brown bats were considered common. We enlisted the help of researchers in 2022 and 2023 to conduct bat surveys at Winton Woods, Glenwood Gardens, and Shawnee Lookout.
What we found was exciting and encouraging, starting with the discovery that all four federally and state-listed bat species were documented at Great Parks. These surveys have helped us understand the “who” and “where” of bats on park property. Importantly, we have more information on which trees and critical areas are used by these animals to rear their young in the summer months. To protect species under threat, we do not share locations. These discoveries will help us conserve bat populations by protecting their habitat and ensuring that our activities are compatible with their needs.
What can you do to promote bat conservation? Learn more about these creatures by visiting the Ohio Bat Working Group’s website. Bat Week is October 24-31 every year, and you can find lots of information and resources by visiting batweek.org. More information about attracting bats to your yard and neighborhood can be found on Bat Conservation International’s website.
Our team is making plans to survey more parks in 2024 to continue our efforts to document the presence of bats and identify important habitats for them in Hamilton County. Over 70% of Great Parks’ property is forested. As the largest landholder in the county, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure we are doing everything we can to contribute to the recovery of these important animals.