RUMFORD — Maine Audubon and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are seeking volunteers this month to count bats now emerging from summer roosting sites at dusk.

These maternal bat colonies, as they are called, will be in attics, barns or camps, John DePue, of the MDIF&W, said on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re just trying to get a handle on the number of bats that are returning to Maine in the summer,” he said of the statewide bat conservation project.

Volunteers who know of or who can find places where bats rest during the day and where they leave their young in the evenings are being asked to sit in comfortable locations for about an hour or so at dusk to count the exodus.

“Usually the hole is small enough that they’re coming out in ones or twos at a time,” DePue said.

Volunteers don’t need to get close to them or know how to identify bat species, of which Maine has eight: Eastern pipistrelle, big brown bat, little brown bat, Eastern small-footed bat, Northern long-eared, Eastern red bat, hoary bat and the silver-haired bat.

DePue said he believes people will mainly be finding little brown bats nesting in their buildings, and, to a lesser extent, big brown bats. In rare instances, they may also find Northern long-eareds, he said.

Key information being sought is the number of bats at a site before the pups (babies) learn to fly, which is in mid June, and after the pups start leaving colonies with their mothers in July.

Volunteers are being asked to count bats for an hour at least once starting 30 minutes before sunset between May 21 and June 21, and again between July 4 and Aug. 1.

DePue said this information will reveal bat productivity — how many pups on average each female is successfully raising.

Additionally, several biologists will conduct acoustic transects across the state, which record echo-location calls or frequencies. From that, they can determine species and where on a transect they were found, he said.

“I know we have some little browns already returning, because I have a number of calls I’m dealing with right now where we have bats in people’s attics,” DePue said.

“If you’re a homeowner, you might not like it, but it’s encouraging to me that we still have some emergence of bats here in the summer.”

Encouraging, because in January the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  estimated that at least 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats have been killed across the country by white-nose syndrome, a deadly white fungus found on the noses of affected bats.

 White-nose infected bats have already been found in Maine.

“It’s unfortunate that this disease that’s decimating hundreds of species of bats is kind of accountable” for the summer emergence counts, DePue said.

Of three known bat hibernating sites checked last year for white-nose syndrome, two are inactive mine caves in Oxford County; the third site is in northern Maine. The killer fungus was only found in the two Oxford County sites.

In March, all three were checked again, but only two — one in Oxford County and the northern site — were accessible, DePue said.

The northern site remains clean, but there were only two infected bats in the Oxford County cave.

“We were expecting to see a few more bats in one of those sites. Two was pretty dismal,” he said.

[email protected]

To get on a mailing list for the start of Maine’s evening bat emergence count, email [email protected] or call 781-6180 ext. 222. Volunteers will also be given everything they need to know.

For more information about the project, visit maineaudubon.org/wildlife-habitat/bat-conservation or contact Susan Gallo at Maine Audubon at 781-6180 ext. 216, or John DePue at Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at [email protected] or 941-4473.


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