April 13, 2023

Endangered Species Monitoring: Mist Netting

When it comes to monitoring bat populations, there is more than meets the eye. Because bats are so environmentally and economically important, the work Lochmueller does in the field is all about gaining more information to help protect the environment.

Lochmueller began working with bats in 2004, a time when state and federal agencies had limited information on bat populations and summer habitat use. Because of this, Lochmueller was able to satisfy a need that these agencies had and became leading experts in the field. One of the ways we are able to learn more about bat populations is through a process called mist netting.

mist net•ting (noun) – a safe and harmless method used to capture bats via rectangular nets comprised of fine threads that are inconspicuous in the dark, enabling biologists to collect information on bat populations.

As environmental protection has evolved through the years, so has monitoring bat populations. Mist netting season is focused during the summer maternity season, taking place at night since bats are nocturnal. Once captured in a mist net, our biologists safely remove the bat for a gentle brief examination before releasing it. Data collected includes measurements and condition identifying if the bat is male or female, adult or juvenile, and its reproductive status. They also record and analyze audio data from the sounds bats make. If a bat meets certain requirements, a tracking device is placed on their back to find out where it is roosting.

Over the years, our firm has educated state and federal agencies, universities, construction contractors, and the public on bats and their importance, and biologists have also contributed to academic research focused on bats. This has inspired state and federal agencies to adopt training and strategies to identify roosting bats under bridges.

Some bat populations have become endangered or threatened due to diseases like White-Nose Syndrome, which has significantly affected bat populations. The US Fish and Wildlife Service relies on Lochmueller Group scientists, and other scientists in the U.S., to contribute bat data collected by mist netting.

White-Nose Syn•drome (noun) – a disease caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), that affects hibernating bats by causing changes in bats that make them become more active than usual and burn up fat they need to survive the winter.

Bats make such a huge contribution to the environment, so when bat populations decline, our ecosystem becomes unbalanced. For example, bats feed on insects that can destroy farmers’ crops and reduce nuisance insect populations. Mist netting, and the important data that comes from it, helps protect our bat populations in hopes of helping our night-flying friends for a healthier environment.

To see an in-depth look at monitoring and protecting bat populations, watch Mammals of Flight: Bats, Mist Netting, and Environmental Conservation, a short documentary shot and produced by Lochmueller Group.

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