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Survey of northern Missouri's bat population in the works

The Indiana bat is on the endangered species list.
Provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation

The Missouri Department of Conservation is preparing to survey the bat population in the northern half of the state.

Tony Elliott is a resource scientist with the conservation department.  He said the survey will focus primarily on two species: the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat.

"Because of the current issues that are affecting bat populations, especially white-nose syndrome, a disease that is affecting the populations, we want to get a better idea of how the bats are using our conservation areas," Elliot said.

White-nose syndrome, which is caused by a fungus, has killed millions of bats in the eastern U.S. and Canada in recent years. The Indiana bat is on the federal endangered species list, while the northern long-eared bat is listed as threatened.

"We're probably going to survey four areas during a summer," Elliott said, "but we plan to keep rotating through multiple areas for a few years to try to get that broad picture of how they are using the areas.”

He added that the public is still banned from entering most caves in Missouri known to house bats, as part of an effort to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome.

The most recent estimates show that around 140,000 Indiana bats hibernate in Missouri during the winter.  Elliott said they don't have a good estimate on the northern long-eared bat population because they're more widely spread out and thus harder to count.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.