De­vice al­lows re­searchers to “see” bat calls, ID bats

The Covington News - - Outdoors -

AL­BANY, Ga. — Sit­ting in a dark swamp sur­rounded by fist­sized spi­ders and the sounds of wild hogs root­ing may seem like an un­usual way to spend an evening. If you are looking for bats, how­ever, the set­ting is per­fect. And even though you might not see them, the bats are there, some­times swoop­ing right in front of your face in the dark, aim­ing to catch their next meal.

A lis­ten­ing de­vice known as the An­abat con­firms their pres­ence.

The An­abat, a sys­tem de­signed to help iden­tify and sur­vey bats by de­tect­ing and an­a­lyz­ing their echolo­ca­tion calls, is be­com­ing a must-have de­vice for wildlife bi­ol­o­gists. Bats use echoloca- tion to nav­i­gate and find food. Hu­mans are un­able to hear most of th­ese sounds but the An­abat picks them up and with the aid of an at­tached PDA dis­plays them on a screen, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to “see” the calls.

The dis­plays are saved as files that can be an­a­lyzed by the An­abat pro­gram once bi­ol­o­gists re­turn from the field. Cer­tain bats have dis­tinc­tive call pat­terns that can be read by ex­pe­ri­enced bat bi­ol­o­gists. How­ever, some bats pro­duce very sim­i­lar sounds, mak­ing the calls of some species hard to dis­tin­guish.

While it is not al­ways pos­si­ble to iden­tify each bat by its recorded call, bi­ol­o­gists can of­ten nar­row the list of species to a few that call in the same fre­quency range and are found in sim­i­lar habi­tats.

“The An­abat pro­vides us with an­other tool for sur­vey­ing and mon­i­tor­ing bats,” said Trina Mor­ris, a wildlife bi­ol­o­gist with the Ge­or­gia Wildlife Re­sources Divi­sion’s Nongame Con­ser­va­tion Sec­tion. “In the past, Ge­or­gia’s bi­ol­o­gists re­lied on vis­ual ob­ser­va­tions and caught bats with mist nets and harp traps to doc­u­ment pop­u­la­tions.”

Mor­ris used the An­abat and mist nets on a re­cent sur­vey at Chick­a­sawhatchee Wildlife Man­age­ment Area near Al­bany for Rafinesque’s big-eared bats (Co­rynorhi­nus rafinesquii) and south­east­ern bats (My­otis aus­tror­i­par­ius), both species of con­cern in Ge­or­gia. The re­sults: Four south­east­ern bats cap­tured.

“Bat trap­ping can be very dif­fi­cult and time in­ten­sive,” Mor­ris said. “The An­abat helps us to de­ter­mine which species may be us­ing a site and where we need to spend time trap­ping bats.”

Ge­or­gians can help con­serve bats and other nongame wildlife, na­tive plants and nat­u­ral habi­tats through buy­ing a wildlife li­cense plate. They can also do­nate to the Give Wildlife a Chance state in­come tax check­off.

Both pro­grams are vi­tal to the Wildlife Re­sources Divi­sion’s Nongame Con­ser­va­tion Sec­tion, which re­ceives no state funds for its mis­sion to help con­serve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and nat­u­ral habi­tats in Ge­or­gia. Go to www.geor­giaw­ildlife.com for more in­for­ma­tion, or call Nongame Con­ser­va­tion offices in So­cial Cir­cle (770-761-3035).

Visit http://users.lmi.net/cor­ben/ an­abat.htm#Over­view for more in­for­ma­tion on the An­abat.

Bats, such as the Townsend’s Big-eared Bat, use echo-lo­ca­tion to find their prey and nav­i­gate.

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