Conservation group seeks volunteers to count bats

Collected information helps biologists monitor population trends

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is looking for volunteers to help protect one of the most endangered land mammal groups in the United States — bats. According to a press release, New Jersey is home to nine species of bats, including the Indiana bat, a federally protected species whose population has declined by approximately 57 percent since 1965.

Historically, bats used trees as roosting areas in the summer. But as habitat turned into development, man-made structures like buildings, bridges, and bat boxes have become more important bat dwellings.

The Summer Bat Count is a volunteer research project that seeks to obtain information about the distribution of summer bat roosting colonies throughout New Jersey.

Volunteers are asked to find a location where bats roost during the day. This location may be a church, house, barn, bat box, or tree that bats use.

Once a roost has been identified, volunteers in the Summer Bat Count visit it twice between June and mid-August.

Arriving at the roost a half hour before sunset for easy viewing of the bats as they fly out from their roost, volunteers will record where the bats are exiting from and count them as they fly out.

Each volunteer will receive a data sheet to be returned to Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey with a map showing the location of the roost.

The data collected by Summer Bat Count volunteers help biologists create distribution maps for the state’s bats, determine roosting and feeding areas, and monitor population trends over a period of time.

To participate in the summer bat count, call 609-984-0621.

According to the press release, more than half of America’s bat species are in severe decline because of various factors, including loss of habitat, direct killing, disease, and disturbance of hibernating and maternity colonies.

All of New Jersey’s bats are insectivores. They feed on night-flying insects, including mosquitoes. According to the press release, one bat can eat 3,000 insects an hour while it is feeding; 150 big brown bats can eat enough cucumber beetles every summer to protect farmers and save almost $1 billion annually.

Some garden pests even detect the sounds that bats make while feeding and will avoid areas where bats are present.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the state’s rare and declining species of wildlife. The foundation carries out its work through research, species management, habitat restoration, education and citizen engagement.

The foundation works in partnership with the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program to help manage federal- and state-protected species, according to the press release.