Ameren Illinois electric supervisor Ryan Weder and linemen from the company's Mattoon Operating Center installed 25-foot-tall manmade bat structures with artificial Brandenbark at the tops as habitat for the nocturnal flying mammals in Warbler Ridge Conservation Area, just south of Charleston. Grand Prairie Friends, a nonprofit conservation land trust, manages the area.
From left, Ameren Illinois linemen Dylan Hubner, Ryan Weder, Nick Wilhoit, Fred Hartbank, Jay Hartbank, and Kyle Mooney as batman, volunteered their time to help set the poles and roosting nest for the bats at Warbler Ridge.
Within approximately 1,000 acres along the Embarras River, a renewable energy company partnered with the Friends four years ago to transform a 165-acre parcel of land with native hardwood trees and pollinator plants in hopes of attracting the bats.
It turns out that there are two distinct bat populations at Warbler Ridge—the Indiana Bat, which is listed as federally endangered, and the Northern Long-Eared Bat, which is federally threatened.
Tara Hohoff, bat biologist for the University of Illinois, says, "It took a couple of years for the bats to find the manmade roosting areas, but today we see hundreds of bats using these pods. It usually takes many years for the bats to find artificial roosts. The success we saw right of way was kind of unprecedented and neat to see." She notes that bats tend to have a misunderstood reputation and people can be afraid of them, but bats are important to help control the insect population.
In September, Weder, Electric Operations Director Ron Juarez and Community Relations Executive Karly Combest presented the Grand Prairie Friends with a $5,000 check.
From left, Jill Maes, Natural Areas and Operations Technician with Grand Prairie Friends; Ryan Weder, Electric Supervisor, Ameren Illinois; Ron Juarez, Director of East Region Electric Operations, Ameren Illinois; Tara Hohoff, bat biologist for the University of Illinois; and Karly Combest, Communications Executive, Ameren Illinois.
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