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Saving the bats: how one group is working to grow the population

CHARLESTON, Ill., (WCIA) — Hundreds of bats consider one part of Central Illinois home, but it’s not without a little help.

Two species living in the Warbler [Ridge Conservation Area] in Charleston are at risk. The Indiana Bat is endangered and the Northern Long-Eared Bat is threatened.

They’re sheltering in roosts and rocket boxes, two homes similar to nests, at the [site].

The first roosts were installed in 2018 with the help of Ameren Illinois. They donated old power lines after storms. On Wednesday morning, they presented Grand Prairie Friends, one of the groups involved, a $5,000 check to continue helping the bat population.

Jill Maes, Natural Areas and Operations Technician with Grand Prairie Friends, said that money can help buy new equipment, helping them to monitor even more bat species in the area.

Right now, six 25-foot polls stand tall in one area of the nature [preserve]. At the top of the polls is BrandenBark. It’s artificial bark that the bats fly under to nest.

Tara Hohoff, a bat biologist with the University of Illinois, said they see the most bats in the summer, and the bark is helping increase the population.

“Adding the artificial roosts increases that availability and these ones were chosen to be in the sun,” Hohoff said. “Bats like a warm, high temperature, and ideally these will be maternity colonies. So, the females create these groups as they’re pregnant and raising their young.”

She said since their installation in 2018, she’s noticed more bat activity in the area.

“Knowing that we have an endangered bat that is using them that really proves a lot that we’re trying to help the population thrive versus ignoring it,” Maes said. “I feel like all we’re doing is a positive impact on the environment and hopefully the bats keep growing.”

Hohoff also said bats are a big part of the ecosystem. In Illinois, they help reduce agricultural pests because they eat earworms and larvae on corn. They also eat the mosquitos in your yard.

Volunteers help count the bats around sunset once a month.

See the full story and news segment here:

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