Artificial homes for endangered bats with deadly disease in Wilson County

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WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Endangered Indiana bats with a deadly disease are being tracked to Wilson County, where wildlife officials are building artificial homes for them.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is now installing artificial habitats to help those bats with Whitenose Syndrome.

Crews have installed nine artificial trees to mimic the summer roosting habitat of the Indiana bat, on a private farm in Wilson County.

“We’ve erected artificial roost using utility poles untreated and then a product called Brendan Bark that mimics the bark of trees that are dying,” Josh Campbell TWRA Region 2 Biodiversity Coordinatortold News 2.

Researchers have been tracking Whitenose Syndrome to Tennessee since 2010, migrating from their winter refuge on the Cumberland Plateau to farms in Wilson County.

“So where they emerge they are stressed because they’ve utilized those fat reserves, but also because Whitenose Syndrome they’ve used more than they should so it takes any time they expend energy it could be detrimental,” he explained.

Campbell says the cold-loving fungus found in caves is plaguing Tennessee bats.

“Throughout the Eastern U.S., it’s estimated that almost 7 million bats have died as a result of Whitenose Syndrome or caused that have contributes to Whitenose Syndrome.”

He says winter bat counts indicate a loss of up to 80% of the population in areas of the state, a serious concern for our ecosystem.

“Bats are the number one predators for agricultural pest so they have a significant positive impact on removing insects that have an effect in agricultural products,” said Campbell.

The TWRA says they have identified several areas within Wilson County where the bats are actually establishing maternity colonies to raise their young.

So far they have installed 9 of the artificial habitats, but are already planning for more.

“This winter we will put up 6 more and then through additional work in the Summer when those bats return if they start colonizing those roost we will probably identify other areas around the farm that we will put up more structures.”

TWRA biologists will be monitoring the area this coming Spring and expect the bats will return to the area and utilize the new artificial habitat.

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