By: Paige Britt, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY – The summer season in New Jersey marks the start of many things: beach trips, bountiful crops, and sunny days. Along with these things, it is also the start of peak bat season.
The Summer Bat Count is a volunteer project that was created by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation and New Jersey’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program. The goal of the count is to gain a better understanding of bats in New Jersey from where they choose to roost to changes in population. The project relies on residents and volunteers to report where bats roost in the summertime.
There are nine species of bats that live in New Jersey, six of which live in New Jersey year round. The six bats that stay in New Jersey year round include the little brown bat Myotis lucifugus), big brown bat Eptesicus fuscus), northern long eared bat, Indiana bat (federal and state endangered species, eastern small footed bat, and eastern pipistrelle. They are active throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall. Bats are crucial in consuming insects, which lowers the need to use harmful pesticides and in turn positively affects farmers, landowners, and fragile ecosystems. A single little brown bat can consume nearly 3,000 insects in one night.
The two species that come into the most contact with humans are big brown bats and little brown bats. The little brown bat population is declining due to a disease caused by fungus called White Nose Syndrome. During the summer, these species of bats roost (rest, sleep, and care for their young), in manmade structures and buildings. All of New Jersey’s resident species hibernate in caves or mines during the winter months. The Summer Bat Count asks that volunteers identify the entry and exit points of bats’ roosts and watch closely around sunset, as bats enter their roosts around dusk. Summer Bat Counters are asked to do four bat counts during the summer; two between May 15 and June 21, and two between July 6 and July 31.
Volunteers are meant to wait outside of the bats’ exit point from a comfortable distance and tally the bats as they fly out for the night. After recording their observations, they are asked to mail in their data sheets at the end of the summer to Conserve Wildlife NJ.
To participate in the Summer Bat Count, visit http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/protecting/projects/bat/bat-count/.
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