Batty in Kentucky

by Michael Hensley, Green River Project Director

National Bat Appreciation Day takes place in April each year, but we should really be “thinking batty” all year round!  Need one good reason to like bats?  How about the fact that, in one hour, a single bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes.  That makes bats my friends any day of the week!

Kentucky is a very important place for bats, and in particular the Green River corridor in and around the Mammoth Cave region.  The caves for which this area is famous provide important winter habitat for many bats.  These spots are known as “winter hibernacula” and as that name would imply, bats do enter a state of hibernation during the coldest months.  During this time, it is very important that the bats remain undisturbed, as a single episode of being roused from their winter slumber can result in the bats not retaining enough calories within their bodies to make it all the way through the winter months.  Beyond the caves, the forested corridor all along the Green River provides prime feeding grounds for bats during the warmer months, and trees along this corridor also provide suitable “maternity colony” space for bats to raise their pups.  Since the bats here in Kentucky are insect-eaters, the presence of native grass and wildflower plantings helps to provide an insect-rich environment, which is beneficial to our bat population.

The great thing about much of The Nature Conservancy’s conservation work in the Green River region is that multiple benefits are provided whenever we accomplish good outcomes like permanent protection and restoration of a piece of land along the Green River or one of its tributaries.  That type of work helps protect all the freshwater organisms found in the river, but at the same time we also provide much improved habitat for bats and many other terrestrial animals.  Bats need all the help they can get today.  They face diminishing habitats and if that weren’t bad enough, they also face a devastating disease called White Nose Syndrome (WNS).  With all the stresses being placed on our bat populations today, it is more important than ever that the Conservancy continues to protect and restore high priority properties in critical bat habitats throughout the Commonwealth.


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