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Bat 'condo' erected in Hammel Woods

9/19/2014, 11:52 a.m.
The Will County Forest Preserve District erected the new bat home to encourage the brown bats making congregating in the ...
A worker from Pennsylvania-based Bat Conservation and Management Inc. installs the top portion of a bat condo Thursday in the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Hammel Woods in Shorewood. The project will provide a better habitat for the bats and a bat-free picnic shelter for the public. Forest Preserve District of Will County

The Forest Preserve District of Will County provided this news story:

The Forest Preserve District of Will County installed a bat condo in Hammel Woods in Shorewood on Thursday in an effort to encourage a maternity colony of big brown bats living at Shorewood Grove Shelter to relocate.

Once the bats leave for winter hibernation caves in September and October, wooden planks along the sides of the Shorewood Grove Shelter will be removed to make the picnic pavilion less desirable to the bats by altering the temperature and humidity level.

When the bats return in the spring and summer of 2015, they will find the bat condo strategically placed in a location that they should find more desirable for roosting. Brown bats are very social and they will like the warm snug fit between sheets of plywood inside the bat condo.

By providing a new bat habitat, the Forest Preserve District will help the bats find safe shelter in an area where food for the bats is abundant. The bat condo also will be turned into an interpretive site so preserve patrons can learn more about the benefit of bats and the environmental threats they are facing. A sign will be placed along the DuPage River Trail near the bat condo explaining its purpose and how it is helping the bats.

“One of the reasons we are trying to relocate, or entice, the bats out of the shelter is to provide the bats with a private shelter to call their own and allow the picnickers a bat-free shelter to enjoy,” said Juanita Armstrong-Ullberg, a natural resource land manager for the Forest Preserve District.

The project is made possible through funding provided by the Forest Preserve District of Will County and a Wildlife Preservation Grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The midsize bat condo, which was installed by Pennsylvania-based Bat Conservation and Management Inc., has room for more than 2,000 bats.

This project is important because bats are dying by the millions, due to a variety of perils. The biggest threats are: white nose syndrome, loss of forested habit and the use of pesticides to kill insects.

“I’ve been studying bats for over 20 years, and bats are endangered wherever they occur,” said Janet Tyburec, a wildlife biologist who used to work for Bat Conservation International, as she observed Thursday’s bat condo installation. “They suffer from the same types of problems that other animals do, including habitat loss and especially roost loss.”

Bats are beneficial to the ecosystem because they eat a variety of insects, and they are “nature’s pesticide” because they feed on agricultural pests, Armstrong-Ullberg said.

They also eat pests that are a nuisance to humans. For instance, one big brown bat can eat more than 3,000 mosquitoes in one night.

Forest Preserve District staff members are monitoring local bat activity, recording bat species, populations and the presence of white nose syndrome. They are helping biologists across the country as they study and try to stop this devastating disease, which is putting some bats on the verge of extinction.

Bats are warm-blooded mammals that give birth hanging upside down and nurse their live young until they are old enough to hunt for themselves. Eight species of bats are native to Will County: big brown, little brown, eastern red, hoary, silver-haired, tri-colored, evening and northern long-eared. The bats living in Shorewood Grove Shelter are big browns, but other bat species are found in Hammel Woods.