CARRIE MORROW, Assistant Resource Manager
It’s a chilly winter day. There aren’t any insects flying around and the creeks and ponds are covered in ice. In the recesses of rock outcrops and caves, Ohio has hibernating bats, sleeping away the winter until the weather warms and there will be food to eat.
Recently, I joined some bat biologists and travelled to Ohio’s largest nature preserve and Central Ohio’s very special Metro Park, Clear Creek. We were searching previously discovered caves. I had visited these caves almost 20 years ago before the onset of white nose syndrome (WNS) severely impacted our hibernating bats. We wanted to see if bats were still using the area for hibernating and if there were any signs of the disease.
Fortunately, we were able to find bats in two caves during our hike. There were no apparent signs of WNS on the bats. In a few short weeks, these bats will leave their winter havens for their summer roosts! Typically, bats will spend the summer using a variety of roosts including trees, attics and artificial boxes and condos. The females will raise their young and all the bats will consume enormous amounts of insects!
We found four big brown bats and one state and federally threatened northern long-eared bat. We previously recorded these species in the park and are encouraged to see them still using the caves and in good health.
Many know the plight of our bats in Ohio. Their winter homes are where white nose syndrome can rob them of energy and lead to an early death. Drastic declines in bat populations have occurred across the eastern United States. Bat enthusiasts have worked hard to dispel the myths surrounding bats and are building their reputation with truth about how beneficial they are. (For more info on bats: www.batcon.org)