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Artificial roosting nests help bat population in Coles County

CHARLESTON, Ill. (WAND) - Ameren Illinois, Grand Prairie Friends and the University of Illinois worked to increase the bat population in central Illinois.

Manmade bat roosting pods were put up in Warbler Ridge Conservation Area in Fall of 2018 with the help of Ameren Illinois. According to Ryan Weder, supervisor of Electrical Operations, Grand Prairie Friends reached out to the agency about helping place poles in the area.

"The poles had been used for what we needed," said Ryan Weder. "They are cedar poles and that's what we wanted to help them out."

The artificial roosting pods are made out of recycled Ameren Illinois power poles, with Brandon Bark wrapped around the tops. According to researchers, bats will roost under the bark.

According to Tara Hohoff, a bat biologist, during a preliminary research of the site found that the number of bats living in the area was low. However, after the artificial roosting pods were installed by Summer 2019, bats were using the roosts.

"It took a couple of years, but now we see hundreds of bats using these pods," she shared.

Of the species of the bats using the pods, researchers found the Indiana Bat, which is listed as federally endangered, and the Northern Long-Eared Bat, which is federally threatened, both make their home in Warbler Ridge Conservation Area.

"Knowing that we have an endangered bat that is using them, that really proves a lot and that we are trying to help the population thrive instead of ignoring it," said Jill Maes, Natural Areas and Operations Technician with Grand Prairie Friends.

Maes shared with WAND News that during the last bat pod count, volunteers counted 381 bats coming in and out of the roosts. She and Hohoff agreed building roosts will help the central Illinois ecosystem.

"Bats are really important for the ecosystem and especially here in central Illinois for agriculture," said Hohoff.

On Wednesday, Ameren Illinois donated $5,000 to Grand Prairie Friends. Maes said the money will be used to buy much needed equipment.

See the full story and news segment here:

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