Bat sampling on Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island, along with being a secluded retreat and fantastic place to experience nature on the Georgia coast, is also a living laboratory. Throughout the year, we host several wildlife biologists working on a variety of projects.

DNR bat biologist, Trina Morris, shares ANABAT technology with our guests. This handheld device brings the bats' echolocation sounds to a frequency that we can hear.

This spring and summer, University of Georgia graduate student Craig Bland is studying roosting habitat preference of the northern yellow bat (Lasiurus intermedius). The northern yellow bat is a foliage-roosting bat, often concealing itself in Spanish moss during the daylight hours. However, this bat is fairly uncommon and little is known about its natural history.

Craig and his team are fixing miniature radio transmitters to Northern yellow bats caught here on Little St. Simons Island and Sapelo Island just to the north. Then, during the day they locate the bats’ roosting location using radio telemetry. By analyzing the characteristics of the roosting sites, the team hopes to get a better understanding of their habitat needs.

Bronson retrieves a bat from the net stretched across the pool.

Last week Craig, one of his technicians Bronson Curry, and Georgia DNR biologist Trina Morris set up mist nests across the swimming pool. Bats frequent this area in the evenings, chasing insects and swooping down for a drink of water. Just after the sun went down, we began to see bats flitting and darting overhead, most cleverly avoiding the nets. However, the bats began to get tangled in the nets, and by the end of the night, a total of 72 bats had been caught!


The northern yellow bat with its band and transmitter, ready to be released.

Out of these 72 bats, only one was a northern yellow bat! The large (second largest bat in Georgia to the Seminole) blonde-haired beauty flew into the net at 11:45 pm. He was successfully equipped with a transmitter and located again this morning just outside of the main compound. All the other bats caught were Seminole bats (Lasiurus seminolus) and evening bats (Nycticeius humeralis).

Before Craig started mist netting for this study, there were only two other documentations of the northern yellow bat on LSSI—one in May 2010 and the second in August 2011. To read more about those sightings and mist netting, check out this previous blog post.

A bat's wing is similar to the human hand with a membrane streched between the fingers and forearm.

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Northern Yellow Bat on Little St. Simons Island

Last month while hosting cocktail hour some of our guests reported an injured bat at the pool.  We went to the pool to look for the bat and found it hanging on the pools’ gate. We watched it fly up into a clump of Spanish moss and at a quick glance- considering its size and coloration, my immediate reaction was “Yellow Bat!”After quickly explaining the significance of potentially finding a Northern Yellow Bat, my very enthusiastic guest companions helped me photograph it. I sent the pictures to Georgia’s Non-Game DNR Bat Biologist, Trina Morris and she confirmed that it was indeed a Yellow Bat! This is a significant find considering that it is only our second documentation of a Yellow Bat on Little St. Simons Island.  The first documentation was in May 2010 when GA Non-Game DNR captured one in a mist net.

Northern Yellow Bat (Lasiurus intermedius) in the Spanish moss. August 2011.

Northern Yellow Bat May 2010

Little is known about Yellow Bats in Georgia and biologists are working to obtain more information. The Yellow Bat is known to use Spanish moss as a roosting location. Biologists believe that their preferred habitat is old growth maritime forest, which has the highest density of Spanish moss, and hope that more data about the species may be gathered by mist netting on LSSI and Georgia’s other barrier islands.  Mist netting is a way to capture bats in an effort to determine local species diversity, population size and health. A large nylon net is raised, usually over a small area of fresh water, using a pulley system on two metal poles. When the bats fly over the water to drink the idea is for them to get entangled in the net. Nets are periodically checked by biologists for bats, when a bat is caught, the net is lowered and the bat is carefully removed. Species, weight, sex, gestational stage (if pregnant or lactating), and an age estimate are some information gathered when bats are in hand. We are looking forward to working more Nongame DNR on surveys and research on the island and hope that through this we are able to learn more about the Northern Yellow Bat in coastal Georgia.

Bats are fascinating and especially valuable in helping to control insect populations. Bats should be given the same respect as other wild animals and should only be handled by professionals. If you find a bat that you believe is injured in your home or yard, please contact a wildlife professional for help. If a seemingly healthy bat finds itself trapped in your home try opening your doors and windows to provide an escape route. Like other wild mammals never pick up a bat. Thank you to the Odea Family who were so helpful in reporting and photographing the Yellow Bat!

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