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Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Ellington Agricultural Center
440 Hogan Road
Nashville, TN 37220
(615) 781-6500
TWRA Hosts the 2018 Annual Bat Blitz in the Southeast

A blitz can be defined as a sudden, energetic, and concerted effort, typically on a specific task. So what does a blitz have to do with wildlife conservation? Blitzes can be used to gather a considerable amount of information pertaining to species occurrences and abundance through concentration of manpower in a geographic area over a short period of time. The information provided by implementing a blitz aids conservation through the increased knowledge gained by the effort.

ATI’s, All Taxa Inventories, are an example of a blitz focused on wildlife, but generally occur over longer periods of time. TWRA has implemented multiple bioblitzes throughout the years on its wildlife management areas (WMA). During these bioblitzes, biologists from across the state descend upon a selected WMA, implementing surveys for multiple fauna groups.

Types of surveys include small mammal trapping, checking coverboards for amphibians and reptiles, visual encounter surveys, point count surveys for birds, and mist net surveys for bats. While conducting such surveys in a short period of time can be exhausting for the biologists, the information collected is extremely valuable for increasing wildlife conservation, as the surveys sometimes reveal the existence of species that were previously unknown to occur in these areas. In short, it can be difficult to conserve what you do not know about!

Bat manpower

The Southeastern Bat Diversity Network (SBDN) conducts a bat blitz annually through its organization. Typically, a state agency or non-governmental organization hosts this blitz under the guidance of the SBDN. These blitzes occur in areas that are under-surveyed for bats and allow for a significant number of sites to be surveyed over just three nights. The effort generated through these bat blitzes exceeds that which the host agencies and organizations can deliver using their own manpower because the annual event is generally attended by 40-100 experienced bat biologists from across the country.

The Southeastern Bat Diversity Network’s (SBDN) 17th Annual Bat Blitz was hosted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in south-central Tennessee on the southern Cumberland Plateau from July 23rd to July 27th, 2018. This was the first time since 2007 that the SBDN bat blitz had taken place in Tennessee. Eighty-four participants from across nineteen states, assisted by five local host members, conducted an intensive three-night bat inventory at 47 sites throughout the Plateau.

Lands managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, The University of the South, and private individuals were surveyed across all three nights. Mist nets were used at all sites with a total of 162 individual mist nets used across the 47 survey sites over 3 nights, totaling over 930 mist net hours of survey effort. Volunteers captured a total of 385 individual bats from 8 different species, including the federally-listed Gray Bat (Myotis grisescens).

  • 1 Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii)
  • 126 Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
  • 174 Eastern Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis)
  • 2 Hoary Bat (L. cinereus)
  • 48 Gray Bat (Myotis grisescens)
  • 4 Eastern Small-footed Bat (M. leibii)
  • 21 Evening Bat (Nycticeius humeralis)
  • 9 Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus)

Striking results in contrast to years past

The data collected during this SBDN bat blitz provide a stark contrast to the results from bat inventories conducted within the southern Cumberland Plateau between 2005-2008 prior to the arrival of the devastating bat disease White-nose Syndrome. For example, Tri-colored Bats were captured every 5 net hours of effort, but during the 2018 bat blitz, the same species was captured every 100 net hours. Northern Long-eared Bats were captured at low rates during summers prior to the arrival of White-nose Syndrome, however, no captures of this species were made during this blitz, indicating the dramatic and quick decline of this species on the summer landscape. Conversely, the number of Gray Bat captures were not expected and likely indicate the presence of summer colonies or transition sites within this portion of Tennessee.

Hair and swab samples were collected during the 2018 bat blitz. Hair samples support an ongoing genetic research project on Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bats and swab samples were collected for a research project investigating the microbiome of bats throughout the state of Tennessee.

The bat blitz was preceded by a public outreach event held at Angel Park in Sewanee, Tennessee on July 23rd. Bat researcher Dr. Tim Carter (Ball State University) and Allyson Webb (Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary) led a discussion regarding the bats of Tennessee, general bat ecology, and the importance of bats to the ecosystem and people. The 52 attendees were delighted to view Dr. Carter process two Big Brown Bats captured by Chris Ogle (TWRA). A bat box was given away as a door prize to one lucky event attendee. Diverse media coverage resulted from the blitz. Watch the TWRA Bat Blitz video or view a great Hoary Bat photo on Twitter as well as a shot of the crowd being wowed by a bat in the hand.

View or download an illustrated bat blitz factsheet with photos!

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