Zoo Scientists Ask Residents to Help With Bat Study
Researchers through the Lincoln Park Zoo are asking residents to keep their eyes peeled for bats in the area as part of a study that could help identify Illinois bat populations, species and the factors that threaten them.
Zoo officials are sending out a bat signal to area residents.
As part of a study to find out how many species of bats are living in and around Chicago, conservationists at the Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute are asking residents to send bat photos and stories in their direction.
“Bats are a great asset to an urban community, and we want to encourage Chicagoans to embrace them as good neighbors to have,” UWI Coordinator Julia Kilgour said, according to a written statement from zoo officials. “There are lots of common misconceptions about bats, and it is important to us to spread the word that these little guys are not out to get people."
Bats feed on mosquitoes and other pesky insects, Kilgour noted.
Get more Lincoln Park stories like these delivered right to your inbox or smartphone with our free newsletter. Fast signup here.
While there are eight known bat species in Illinois, there is no tally of how many live in greater Chicago, a Lincoln Park Zoo news release says. Zoo scientists hoping to find that out are listening in on bat calls through special detectors that have been placed on poles, trees and fences throughout the region. The devices pick up bats' sonic patterns or "echolocation calls" which allow researches to identify their species.
So far, UWI has found evidence of four species of bats in the vicinity of Lincoln Park Zoo—big brown bats, eastern red bats, silver-haired bats, and hoary bats. Getting an accurate idea of which species are local will help scientists monitor the population and possibly gain insight down the road into the biggest ever threat to bats known as white nose syndrome.
The syndrome is a fungal disease that has decimated bat populations in the eastern United States, the news release says.
"While it has not yet been detected in Illinois, the syndrome has killed an estimated 6 million bats and is spreading west," states the release.
Scientists worry that it this rate, bats could be extinct in a matter of years.
“Bats are vulnerable, and the more we know about them, the better,” Kilgour said. “That’s why we are asking the public to be our eyes and ears as we all work to understand these mysterious and often invisible creatures.”
Members of the public can submit their bat photos, bat stories, and bat tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Scientists are especially interested in any information about colonies in the area that they may be able to study.