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Ozark Big Eared Bat Maze
Ozark Big Eared Bat Maze
Ozark Big-Eared Bat Maze.
The Ozark Big-Eared Bat roosts in limestone caves in the Ozark Highlands and Boston Mountain ecoregions of NW Arkansas and adjacent NE Oklahoma. The bats once lived in nearby SW Missouri, but human activity forced them to leave.
These caves maintain a year round temperature of between 40° and 50° F. In late spring through late summer, the males sleep on their own, while the females roost together in warmer (50 -59° F) caves. In these maternity colonies, each mother gives birth to one offspring per year. In three weeks a baby bat flies; and in three more it will be weaned.
After the fall mating season, the male and female bats hibernate together from October or November through April or May. They favor locations near the fronts of caves. This makes them vulnerable to being awakened by human sightseers, cavers or vandals. When a bat wakes up during hibernation, it uses up fat reserves: 10 – 30 days of the bat’s stored energy. Too much winter activity will cause a bat to die of starvation.
Another threat that may affect these bats is a fungal disease called the white-nose syndrome. First identified in 2007 in a New York state cave, this disease has wiped out approximately 80 percent of all bat populations in eastern parts of the United States. The disease is spreading both North and West from its origin and it is likely only a matter of time before it reaches bats living in the Ozarks.
The Ozark Big-Eared Bat eats a variety of insects. The bulk of its diet, perhaps 90 percent, comes from eating moths. It may be that the bat’s oversized ears – they would be over 2 feet tall if scaled up to a six foot human – play a part in the bat’s ability to hunt moths. However, since other bat species with smaller ears can eat a similar diet, what role the big ears (1.2 inches – 1.5 inches) play is not known for sure. The Ozark Big-Eared Bat is about 3.5 – 4.5 inches long, and has a wingspan of about one foot.
There are believed to be fewer than 1800 of these bats left in the wild. Getting an accurate count is challenging. In 2006 simultaneous night-vision video and high frequency audio recording started to supplement traditional counting methods. It is easier to count the bats as the tape is played back in slow motion (or even frame by frame) than it is to count bats flying out of a cave in person. Moreover, since many bat species may live in the same cave, the high frequency audio determines if a bat whose ears are obscured is an Ozark Big-Eared Bat or not. This is because each species of bat has its own unique call.
Efforts to conserve this species, first listed as endangered on November 30, 1979, are ongoing. Fences at the cave entrances keep people (and domesticated animals) out, but let bats in. An 885-acre reserve, the Oklahoma Bat Caves National Wildlife Refuge, shelters the Ozark Big-Eared Bat, and other endangered bat species native to the area.
The Ozark Big-Eared Bat, unique to caves in Oklahoma and Arkansas has fewer than 1800 individuals left in its population. Named for its big ears, this bat was placed on the endangered species list in 1979. Now the biggest impending threat may be the White Nose Syndrome.
Original artwork is copyright 2014 by Rob Hughes. Drawn with india ink on 9″ x 12″ Bristol white vellum surface paper. Made in Michigan. Built to last.
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