National Park Service to Spend $40,000 Looking for Bat Caves in California

April 9, 2013 - 4:32 PM

bats

Bats (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The National Park Service is setting aside $40,000 in taxpayer funds for a “potential partner to collaborate on a project to identify the location of bat hibernacula within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI) in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.”

According to the grant, there are “almost 300 identified and geo-referenced caves” in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks “of which many are undoubtedly used as bat hibernacula” – the winter quarters of the hibernating animal.

“Our goal is to determine which of the almost 300 caves in the parks are actually used by bats, in particular those caves which are used by sensitive species such as Townsend’s big-eared bat. Because many of these caves are located in steep, mountainous terrain at elevations up to 10,000 ft, some technical climbing/caving skills may be necessary,” the grant said.

“Given the significance of the caves and the wildlife they provide habitat for, a monitoring program is desirable for detecting changes in the cave ecosystems,” the grant added.

Many of the species found in the caves include species that are “of significant conservation concern” including three bat species – Spotted bat, Pallid bat, and Townsend’s big-eared bat – all of which are listed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as Species of Special Concern and by the Western Bat Working Group as High Priority Species.

The National Park Service (NPS) is hoping to get the project started as soon as possible ahead of the arrival of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease that causes mass mortality specifically in hibernating bats.

NPS wants assistance with “prioritizing caves for investigation, using a combination of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, literature reviews, and expert opinion, etc.”

NPS also hopes to get help “conducting summer site visits to evaluate caves for evidence of bat occupancy (guano, urine stains, etc.), conducting acoustic surveys of caves with evidence of bat occupancy to determine relative activity levels, and for the caves in which significant activity is detected, conducting follow-up investigations to identify species present.”

Once the initial inventory is done, the park will be able to revisit the bat caves in the future as part of a long-term monitoring program.

The closing date for applications is April 10. The project will be initiated in September and may span multiple years, according to the grant description.

Calls to the National Park Service were not returned at press time.