August 2, 2013
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — A national group that has traveled to Florida, North Carolina and Georgia to study the habits of bats chose this year to study the mammals in the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction.
The Southeastern Bat Diversity Network out of Raleigh, N.C., held their annual “Bat Blitz” July 29-31 in Sally Bull Hollow in Adair County, Lake Eucha in Delaware County and Cookson Hills in Cherokee County. A fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, which can devastate a bat colony, has swept through the Northeast and South and now moving west toward Oklahoma, which is why organizers chose to study bats in the Sooner State prior to any potential fungus arrival.
"Bats are an important part of the environment, consuming large quantities of insect pests each night. Unfortunately, their populations are in peril across the world,” said Cherokee Nation Administrative Liaison Pat Gwin, who advises Principal Chief Bill John Baker on environmental issues and participated in the research. “Bat Blitz, which creates scientific partnerships between the Cherokee Nation, the federal government, academia and states, is a valuable tool in collecting data on bat behavior and populations. It will be this data that drives our conservation efforts of the future."
Nearly 100 research volunteers who signed up for this year’s Bat Blitz stayed in Tahlequah. Each night, 10 teams netted bats to collect data to form a snapshot of the local bat species, including weight, length and gender, to better measure the aftereffect of a potential white-nose syndrome outbreak.
The syndrome can cause bats to awaken more often during winter and utilize their fat reserves too early, and can decimate an entire cave’s population, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Richard Stark, who works at the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge in Adair County that also helped with the Bat Blitz.
“We consider the Cherokee Nation one of our most important partners in our conservation efforts,” Stark said. “The Cherokee Nation has thousands of acres in northeastern Oklahoma, many of which are adjacent to our most important tracks, so during the Bat Blitz we thought it was important to net some of those sites.”
For more information on the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network’s Annual Bat Blitz, visit http://www.sbdn.org/index.html. For more information on Cherokee Nation’s work on environmental issues, contact Pat Gwin at 918-453-5704.