DEM confirms presence of eastern small footed bat in Rhode Island

Biologists have long believed the species was present in the state, but had never confirmed it visually until now

By: Tim Studebaker

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – State biologists have long thought that if they looked around enough, eventually they’d find the elusive eastern small footed bat somewhere in Rhode Island.  Now, they have.

Jennifer Brooks is the state’s Bat Biologist and Volunteer Program Coordinator with the DEM’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Brooks says, “They’re kind of a cryptic species.  They tend to hide under rocky ledges or even just piles of rocks.”

The DEM’s bat program began in 2010, while white-nose syndrome was wiping out bat populations.  By studying where they live, what they eat, and how they move around, biologists can understand a lot about our region’s ecosystem.

Brooks says, “They’re a huge predator of pest insects [like] mosquitoes, which can cause disease and just general annoyance.  Also, they save the agricultural industry about $1,000,000,000 in North America every year.”

Back in 2016, they picked up on what they believed at the time to be the bat’s unique call signature.

Brooks says, “We have special equipment that actually records those calls.  They’re too high or too low for human ears.”

But at the time, they couldn’t visually confirm it was the eastern small footed bat.  Now, six years later, Brooks has just recently taken over the role of State Bat Biologist, and she and her predecessor finally made the discovery together.

Brooks says, “It was really cool to finally see one in person.  We’ve been looking for 12 years.”

Now that they know for sure the species is here in Rhode Island, they’re going to look for more.

Brooks says, “It’s really important to have that basic understanding of what we have now so that if we do see fluctuations in populations, we’ll know that there’s something going on.”

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Categories: News, Rhode Island