Study Seeks Ways to Save Bats from Windfarm Deaths

While some wildlife biologists express concern about the fate of bates in northwest Oklahoma’s Selman Cave because of the cave’s proximity to wind farms, a new study suggests some species might be better able to absorb losses than others killed by wind turbines. The study was recently published online by the science journal Ecological Applications. It is also the first such study to use genetic and chemical analysis to review the impact of wind farms on bats in the Appalachian region, according to David Nelson, an associate professor at the University of Maryland’s Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg.

He indicated the study showed that red bats, as a species might absorb wind-turbine deaths more than the so-called hoary bats.

“Our data are telling us the hoary bats have a much smaller effective population size, which suggests we should be more concerned about the rate at which they’re being killed,” said Nelson.

A spokesman at the American Wind Energy Association indicated that bats that migrate over long distances are the species most commonly affected by the wind farms. John Anderson, senior director of permitting policy and environmental affairs said the wind industry is investigating promising techniques such as acoustic deterrents and operational adjustments to reduce bat deaths.

In Oklahoma, the Selman Bat Cave is home to a million Mexican free-tailed bats and is also the focus of the annual Selman Cave bat watches carried out by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife. It is also the state’s largest maternity colonies of the Mexican free-tailed bats that migrate to Oklahoma each summer. The cave sits on a 340-acre site in an area northeast of Woodward. It is closed to the public except during specific Bat Watch evenings where a state biologist escorts people on and off the property.





   

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