Creatures of the night
In the swamps of East Texas, lives a colony of rare bats called Rafinesque's Big-Eared bats. Their numbers have dwindled with the overall disappearance of the old hardwood bottomland forests causing biologists to worry.
At the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Liberty County, Texas, biologist Laurie Lomas scans the trees of a Tupelo swamp looking for little guys.
“The Rafinesque's Big-eared bat is a species that depends on older growth trees," Lomas explains, "you tend to find them here.”
One maternity colony has found the perfect summer home in an old abandoned house.
“You typically find the bats in abandoned houses in the spring to summer months because they're looking for a warm roost. And we have some towers as well built specifically for these bats as maternity colony. And they're close by and the bats will readily move from here to the towers depending on the temperature.”
With man-made roofs and with further protection of pristine habitats, there is hope that the Rafinesque's Big-Eared Bat may one day be out of the woods.
“What we know about this bat is that it was in decline," explains Lomas. "And because these guys need old bottom-land hardwood forests, very old forests, we've purchased this refuge. We're continuing to purchase more properties and let the properties get older and older and as the trees mature, that would create more habitat for these guys.”
The Rafinesque's Big-Eared bat is listed as a threatened species in Texas and one of the least known. We do know the bats make our lives much more comfortable by eating insects, including mosquitoes.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department produces these multi-media reports as an educational resource.