Bat Monitoring Project

-Jade Legros (MSc), Amelie Fontaine (PhD), Dr. Kyle Elliott (McGill)

Bats play ecological roles that are vital to the health of ecosystems, including pest control, pollinating plants and seed dispersal. Since the white-nose syndrome epidemic, bat populations across North America have been affected in both abundance and distribution. In North America, most bat species belong to the suborder Microchiroptera which regroups bats that echolocate to navigate through obstacles and find prey. The discovery of echolocation and the advancements in bat call identification has enabled chiroptologists to characterize guilds of these creatures. Researchers can now distinguish hunting calls, social calls, and obstacle avoidance calls. In Quebec, five bat species live year round, and another three species are migratory. The residential chiropterans are the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), and tricoloured bat (Perimyotis subflavus). The migratory species are the eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis), hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), and silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans). The goal of this project was to identify the bat species present at Kenauk using the Wildlife Acoustics Echo Meter Touch module and associated Kaleidescope Pro software. Objectives included 1) conduct an inventory of bat species at Kenauk, 2) estimate the abundance and diversity of the species across different sites, and 3) begin to understand the relationship between sites, species and time of night. This project identified all 8 species found in Quebec on the property of Kenauk.

The next phase of this project includes developing new techniques to accurately perform bat population surveys using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). As bats are aerial species and frequently fly above tree canopies, UAVs could be ideal to perform population surveys. However, many studies have found that some animals have negative reactions to UAVs. The objective is therefore to evaluate how chiropterans behave around active UAVs equipped with an acoustic detector and characterize how UAVs could be used for bat population surveys.

Conservation of maternity roosts (where bats reproduce), hibernacula (where bats hibernate over winter), and their surrounding habitats are essential. This project will also evaluate landscape scale habitat selection by bats at maternity roosts and hibernacula and analyze large-scale population trends for bat species across Quebec.