Mammals in the Great Lakes State

By Eugene Kutz, MNA Intern

The Michigan Nature Association is recognizing 2017’s Michigan Mammals Week July 10-16 and wishes to highlight some of our favorite species living in the Great Lakes State.

Take a quick inventory and marvel at Michigan’s various mammals, from bats to bears! Summer is a great time to plan outdoor adventures in the state of Michigan and one of the best times to observe the abundance of mammals found at MNA sanctuaries! Will you encounter a great Michigan mammal this summer?

We encourage you to check out our list of MNA sanctuaries specially selected for their seasonal offerings to those looking to enjoy opportunities in Michigan’s great outdoors.

 

MICHIGAN BATS

Bat are as misunderstood as they are intriguing. They are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. A bat’s wing is unique because unlike wings of birds and insects, it’s actually skin stretched over long, thin fingers which can connect the arms and legs and even the tail.

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Michigan bat.  Photo: Bat Specialists of Michigan.

Adapted to flying at night, bats can navigate in total darkness, famous for their use of echolocation. By creating high-frequency sound pulses that bounce off nearby objects, bats use the returning echoes to determine an object’s size, shape and distance. This technique all but gives away the location of prey while guiding bats’ aerial movements.

Michigan bats diet consists of a variety of moths, flies, beetles and other insects, and can capture up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects per hour. Bats mostly live in forests that are situated near water, where insects thrive.

In winter months, bats have adapted to hibernate due to the lack of insects to hunt. Although some bats migrate to warmer regions, many can hibernate in the numerous caves and mines throughout Michigan.

More info: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12205-70016–,00.html

Explore the bats native to Michigan:


MICHIGAN BLACK BEARS

The only species of bear found in Michigan─the black bear─is mostly found in western North America. The black bear moniker is mostly deserved, with most sporting black or dark brown fur, but the black bear’s fur can actually vary from browns and blondes to gray-blues.

On all fours, adults reach nearly three feet tall, spanning 3-5 feet in length. Adult females average smaller than males, weighing up to 300 pounds with adult males weighing up to 500 pounds! Adult males and females share company during breeding seasons, but are otherwise solitary creatures after mothers have reared their cubs.

During their seasonal retirement, Michigan black bears drop their body temperature by just a few degrees, and because of this are not true hibernators, as a hibernating animal’s body temperature will level with the temperature of its environment. For this reason, bears can be awakened easily during their denning period and will flee right away when feeling threatened.

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Michigan black bear. Photo: James A. Galletto.

They typically enter their dens in December, emerging in early-to mid-spring. Dens are made in rock cavities, root masses, standing trees, openings under fallen trees or as excavated or constructed ground nests. Cubs are usually born in January and without their fur, relying heavily on their mother. Yet they grow quickly, reaching up to 60 pounds by the end of their first summer and staying with their mother until they’re about a year and a half old and may enjoy a lifespan of over 30 years.

Michigan’s black bears are often found in heavily forested areas, but also reside in deciduous lowlands, uplands, and coniferous swamps. They continue moving into the southern Lower Peninsula but inhabit a variety of landscapes, rotating habitats with seasonal availability of food.

The size of a bear’s “home-range” in which it resides varies with its sex and age. Mothers of newborn cubs stay within smaller home-ranges of about 50 square miles which gradually increase as their cubs grow up, while male home-ranges average 335 square miles, generally overlapping with other bears.

As omnivores, black bears are opportunistic feeders, using both plant and animal matter and feed heavily in the fall to store fat for winter. They feed on wetland vegetation in the spring and  fruits and berries in summer and fall, the majority of animal matter consumed consisting of insects and larvae. Yet bears are capable of preying on most small to medium-sized animals, and even acquire foods from humans, such as fruit and vegetable crops, apiaries, bird feed and garbage, with human activity factoring into a bear’s choice of home-range.

More info: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10363_10856_57530—,00.html

Explore more fascinating information on the black bears of Michigan:

 

MICHIGAN FLYING SQUIRRELS

Michigan’s most elusive mammal, the flying squirrel can be found throughout the state, yet few people have had the opportunity to view them. Entirely nocturnal, Michigan is home to two species of flying squirrels: the northern flying squirrel inhabits the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas, while the southern flying squirrel inhabits the southern Lower Peninsula.

Flying squirrels inhabit forests, parks and other woodlands, nesting in summer and denning in winter in the cavities of mature trees.

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Michigan flying squirrel. Photo: Steve Gettle.

Although their aerial maneuverability is certainly impressive, unlike Michigan’s bats, flying squirrels are not actually capable of flight. Instead, they are equipped with loose, furry skin attached between their front and back legs, helping them glide between the trees of their wooded homes.

For a chance to see these creatures after dark, the Michigan DNR suggests using a red light to illuminate bird feeders. You may just spot a Michigan flying squirrel having a midnight meal! The red light won’t bother feeding squirrels, and allows you to see their activity after dark.

Although populations remain large, the northern flying squirrel is no longer being found in their historic ranges, while researchers record higher numbers in areas previously uninhabited by them. Researchers have found evidence suggesting the flying squirrel populations are at risk in the northern region of the Lower Peninsula, studying why flying squirrel populations in the north are decreasing while southern populations are increasing.

Michigan State University researchers are attempting to map the ranges of the two species for comparison to historical information, as part of a project funded by the Nongame Wildlife Fund.

More info: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12205-32998–,00.html

 

MICHIGAN WOLVES

The return of wolves in Michigan is a story of successful wildlife recovery. State and federal protection of wolves enabled the comeback of the species throughout the western Great Lakes Region. In Michigan, wolves eat deer, beaver, rodents and other small mammals, but also snack on insects, nuts, berries and grasses. They are the only Canid species in Michigan that hunts in a social unit (the pack) and although wolves can go for a week without eating, when they do eat, their meal may include 20 pounds of meat at a time.

The largest member of the Canid family (wild dogs), wolves are native to Michigan and were once present in all 83 counties. Yet persecution and active predator control programs throughout the 20th century virtually eliminated wolves from Michigan, and by 1840, they could no longer be found in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula. By 1935, they had completely disappeared from the Lower Peninsula, and had nearly vanished from the Upper Peninsula by 1960, when a state-paid bounty on wolves was finally repealed.

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Michigan wolf. Photo: Monty Sloan.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was home to the last known pups born during this era, and the species remained unprotected in Michigan until the state Legislature granted full legal protection in 1965. It was then that the federal government listed the gray wolf as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973, at a time when Michigan’s wolf population was estimated at only six animals in the U.P., along with an isolated population on Isle Royale.

And it just so happened then in the 1970s an increasing number of wolf sightings and occasional encounters with motorists in the U.P. were reported. An attempt at translocating four wolves from Minnesota to the U.P. was made in 1974, but all four animals were killed by humans within eight months, before any successful reproduction could occur. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) subsequently decided to let wolf recovery happen naturally without human intervention.

Natural emigration of wolves from Minnesota, Ontario and Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula was first documented in the 1980s, when a pair of wolves was discovered in the central U.P. The pair had pups in 1990, and by 1992, when the population numbered an estimated 21 animals, it was clear wolves were starting to successfully rebound in the state, particularly in the U.P. due to the availability of prey and timber harvesting practices that created a prime habitat for deer.

Through continued extensive conservation efforts over the following years, the Michigan/Wisconsin combined population currently numbers a more remarkable 1,000 wolves. In light of this significant recovery of the wolf population, the state Legislature removed wolves from the state list of endangered species in April 2009, and reclassified wolves as a protected, nongame species. But in January 2012, wolves were removed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota from the federal endangered species list and returned management authority to the state level. Yet in December of 2014, a federal court order returned wolves to the Federal Endangered Species list. An appeal of this decision is ongoing.

A large part of the recovery success story is also attributed to support from the public. Survey results from the mid-1990s, when wolves first began to rebound in the U.P., supported wolf recovery. Continued social acceptance of a self-sustaining wolf population is critical to maintaining the population’s “recovered” status and retaining state management authority.

More info: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12205-32569–,00.html

MICHIGAN RED FOX

Every county in Michigan is home to red foxes! They’re highly mobile mammals, hunting alone and making shelter in fields, meadows, streams, low bush, and shrub cover and along woods and beaches. Yet you may find a red fox in your backyard; or wherever it might look for an unwanted snack!

Red foxes are members of the Canidae (dog) family, are opportunistic eaters, making a meal out of nearly anything available. They will eat insects, plants, fruits, berries, seeds, or birds, frogs and even snakes. They may also eat small mammals such as mice, rabbits, and squirrels, but could grab a bite to eat in garden vegetables, garbage or pet foods. Some foxes may cause a problem if they lose their fear of humans and learn to kill small farm animals like chickens, and so steps should be taken to ensure foxes or other wild animals are not fed by humans.

A primarily nocturnal mammal, red foxes are most active at night, commonly spotted at early morning or late evening. However, you could stumble upon a red fox during the day, especially in open areas─but from a distance, their sleek physique may have you second guessing if you saw a cat!

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Michigan red fox. Photo: Koryos.

They may look familiar to your dog, but slender and smaller, with long, bushy tails over 2 feet long. Because their fur makes them look bigger, red foxes are lighter than they may appear. The titular red color accents their faces and tops of their heads, with orange or yellow fur on their necks. Their white-tipped tails are outlined with black fur, as well as their ear tips. A red fox is gloved with dark black or brown paws, while the insides of theirs ears, chest, and belly are creamy white.

A fox likes to make its shelter in well-drained, dry areas, and can be found in the middle of fields, on woodland edges, ridges, or any place which provides shelter. Fox families burrow in the ground to make a “den” with two entrances, usually by excavating old woodchuck or badger holes. This place is where they can safely raise their young, and if they wish, share their den with a second family.

More info: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12205-61328–,00.html

 

MICHIGAN COYOTE

Coyotes are found throughout Michigan and have dispersed into southern Michigan without assistance from the DNR. Coyotes are found in rural to urban areas and are quite common but extremely good at remaining unnoticed by humans, even while living in close proximity.

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Michigan coyote. Photo: Perry Backus.

Coyotes can be difficult to distinguish from a medium sized German shepherd dog from a distance. There is wide variation in the coyote’s color, but generally their upper body is yellowish gray, and the fur covering the throat and belly is white to cream color. The coyote’s ears are pointed and stand erect, unlike the ears of domestic dogs that often droop. When observed running, coyotes carry their bushy, black tipped tail below the level of their back, in comparison to wolves that carry their tail in a horizontal position while running.

This member of the dog family is extremely adaptable and survives in virtually all habitat types common in Michigan. They are most abundant in areas where adequate food, cover, and water are available. The size of a coyote’s home range depends on the food and cover resources available and on the number of other coyotes in an area, but it generally averages between 8 and 12 square miles. Mated pairs and 4 to 7 pups occupy the home range during the spring and summer seasons in Michigan.

People are most likely to see coyotes during their breeding period, which occurs in Michigan from mid-January into March. As fall approaches, pups begin dispersing from the den site to establish home ranges of their own. These young dispersing animals sometimes wander into urban areas. Coyotes are active day and night; however, peaks in activity occur at sunrise and sunset. Coyotes generally feed at night. They are opportunistic and will eat almost anything available. Small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, rabbits, hares, and squirrels are preferred foods, but will also eat fruits, plants, birds, and snakes. In urban areas, coyotes are attracted to garbage, garden vegetables, and pet foods.

More info: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12205-60378–,00.html

 

MICHIGAN MOOSE

Moose are native to Michigan and occurred throughout nearly the entire state prior to European settlement. Moose disappeared from the Lower Peninsula in the 1890s, and only a few scattered individuals remain in the Upper Peninsula.

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Michigan moose. Photo: Al Hikes.

Moose are the largest members of the deer family and the tallest mammal in North America ranging from 5-7 feet. Their massive bodies can weigh up to 725 to 1,100 pounds! The moose’s coloration can vary from grayish- or reddish-brown to the occasional all-black individual.

Since moose prefer colder climates, they only live in areas that have seasonal snow cover. Boreal forests with shrubby growth and immature trees along the cedar swamps, marshes, and alder-willow thickets near waterways are popular places to find moose.

Moose is an Algonquin term that means “twig eater”. They tend to graze on leaves, bark, pine cones, twigs, and buds of aspen, maple, and birch trees and shrubs. They also eat aquatic plants like water lilies, rushes, arrowheads, and horsetails.

More info: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12145_58476—,00.html

 

MICHIGAN COUGAR

Michigan cougars, also called mountain lions, were originally native to Michigan, but were extirpated from Michigan around the turn of the century. Over the past few years, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations throughout the state. Today the species in Michigan is listed as endangered and is protected under state law.

Cougars are the second largest cat in North America─they vary between 5-9 feet long and can weigh up to 150-200 pounds. Unlike other big cats, however, the cougar cannot roar. Instead, the large feline purrs like a house cat.

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Michigan cougar. Photo: Eric Pickhartz.

Inhabiting various ecosystems from mountains to deserts to sea-level, they make their home anywhere there is shelter and prey. Cougars are primarily nocturnal although they can be active during the day. They are solitary and secretive animals that prefer to hunt from cover. Generally they prey on deer but also feed on smaller animals if necessary, including domestic animals and livestock. Cougars have even been known to eat insects.

More info: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12145_43573—,00.html

Check out the Michigan DNR website to find programs near you celebrating and teaching about Michigan’s great mammals, with activities like hikes, animal tracking programs, and more.

 

Happy National Pollinator Week

By Eugene Kutz, MNA Intern

This year, the Michigan Nature Association is recognizing one decade of National Pollinator Week, put into place by the U.S. Senate to recognize the critical role pollinators have in ecosystem health and agriculture, and to recognize “the value of partnership efforts to increase awareness about pollinators and support for protecting and sustaining pollinators.”

pollinator weekThe U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior have designated June 19-25 as National Pollinator Week in 2017 ─ a statement on how critical pollinators are to food production and ecosystems.

National Pollinator Week is a time to share the news about the need for healthy pollinator populations (bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles) and what can be done to protect them. This important awareness week addresses the devastating effects that declining pollinator populations will continue to have on agriculture and ecosystems that we all rely on.

The National Pollinator Week is now celebrated and recognized by countries across the globe, where many are celebrating healthy ecosystems and the services provided by pollinators and their positive effect on all of our lives, from supporting wildlife to keeping watersheds healthy.

For more information, visit The Pollinator Partnership, the largest non-profit dedicated exclusively to promoting the health of pollinators through conservation, education, and research.

To see a list of events taking place in Michigan this week, check out http://www.pollinator.org/pollinatorweek/events#Michigan:

Michigan BeePalooza 2017 bumble
6/18/2017, 1:00 PM
1066 Bogue Street East Lansing, 48824
“A fun afternoon event on Father’s Day at the MSU Demonstration Gardens in East Lansing, with interactive educational displays about the Bees of Michigan, beekeeping, bee conservation for homeowners, bumble bee ecology, face painting, and more!”
https://www.facebook.com/events/712867558881877 ; http://www.beepalooza.org

Pollinator Day 2017
6/24/2017, 12:00 PM
34051 Ryan Road, Sterling Heights, 48310
“Eckert’s Greenhouse is hosting an Annual Pollinator Day! Go to three different stations to learn about the importance of Butterflies, Bees, Birds and Bats! Let us help you make a friendly pollinator garden from our wide variety of annuals and perennials.” http://www.eckertsgreenhouse.com/specials–events.html

Free Seminar: Create A Garden To Attract Pollinators
6/24/2017, 10:00 AM
English Gardens, West Bloomfield, 48322
“Our experts will share tips on creating a garden that pollinators will love to call home.” http://www.englishgardens.com/events/create-a-garden-to-attract-pollinators/
Contact information: ewinger@englishgardens.com

Stewardship Workday At Bluffs Nature Area
6/24/2017 9:00 AM
222 Sunset Rd, Ann Arbor, 48103
“Bluffs Nature Area offers trails for bikers, walkers and runners along with interesting views of the river and a small hidden prairie. Volunteers are needed to pull invasive plants that provide little food for wildlife and crowd out native wildflowers.”
www.a2gov.org/NAP; 734.794.6627; NAP@a2gov.org

For a complete look at all National Pollinator Week events in the U.S. this week take a look at this map: http://pollinator.org/npw_events.htm.

 

 

Water Quality Partnerships, Poweshiek Skipperling, and Dragonflies: this week in environmental news

Local land conservancies, Watershed Council partner up to safeguard water quality (The Livingston Post): Local land conservancies, including the Michigan Nature Association, and the Huron River Watershed Council joined forces in 2014, to help private land owners protect natural areas with the potential to impact water quality. This month, the partnership will hold information sessions throughout the Huron River’s watershed so that land owners can learn about the land protection process and register for free land assessment tools. The Huron River is considered Michigan’s cleanest urban river. It owes this designation both to historic land conservation efforts and to the watershed’s remaining natural areas.

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Reared Poweshiek skipperling. Photo: Erik Runquist/Minnesota Zoo.

Stopping Extinction of a Prairie Butterfly – Poweshiek Skipperling (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service): The Poweshiek skipperling was listed as endangered in 2014. Prairie loss and degradation led to the initial decline of the species, but causes of the recent sharp decline remain a mystery. It is suspected that several threats may be responsible, such as an unknown disease or parasite, climate change, or use of pesticides. Research has begun in an effort to narrow down the cause or causes of the decline.

Superheroes build homes for bats (Great Lakes Echo): The Organization for Bat Conservation in Bloomfield, Michigan teamed up with Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and crew to raise funds and awareness for bat conservation. The set from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is getting recycled wood to auction off in the form of bat houses. The auction will be held on EBay and the money from the sales will go to the Save the Bat campaign.

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This Pantala dragonfly is a male from Japan. Photo: Alpsdake/Wikipedia

Tiny dragonfly species crushes long-distance migration record by riding high-altitude winds (Mother Nature Network): Barely an inch and a half long, the Pantala flavescens dragonfly flies across continents and oceans. Pantala dragonflies are found all over the world. Biologists recently discovered that it’s not just that some Pantala dragonflies migrate long-distance from here to there, but rather that the worldwide Pantala population is one giant gene pool, and individuals from all corners of the world are freely interbreeding. More research will be needed to gather the evidence necessary to fully prove this new hypothesis about travel via high-altitude winds, but the dragonfly’s roughly 4,400-mile migration range puts it well ahead of any other migratory insect.

Project in UP halted, EPA limits emissions and blacklights save bats: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Court upholds UP ethanol plant review but project likely dropped (Great Lakes Echo): A federal appeals court has upheld the decision to review a $100 million construction subsidy in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The U.S. Department of Energy declared the project to be void of significant harm to the environment. Despite this, recent mandates calling for the elimination of cellulosic ethanol and an investor backing out may have closed the project.

An East Lansing resident explores options in the East Lansing Food Co-op. Photo by Corey Damocles courtesy of The State News.

An East Lansing resident explores options in the East Lansing Food Co-op. Photo by Corey Damocles courtesy of The State News.

Local grocers specialize to thrive (The State News): The East Lansing Food Co-op, among other stores, have tried ways to make them stand out to customers. The co-op is different compared to other grocery stores and provides organic and locally grown food, something a little different than at the supermarket. Owner David Finet said the co-op works directly with its producers when buying products.

EPA releases much-anticipated limits on power plant emissions (Huffington Post): The Environmental Protection Agency announced one of its new mandates: a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030. “For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Twitter chat about new EPA carbon pollution regulations (New York Times): The New York Times hosted a Twitter question and answer session with environmental reporter Coral Davenport. Davenport had an exchange with those asking questions about the new EPA regulations and their effects on coal-producing states, among other topics.

A map tracking cases of white-nose syndrome. Map by Lindsey Hefferman, courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

A map tracking cases of white-nose syndrome. Map by Lindsey Hefferman, courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Scientists diagnose white-nose syndrome in bats using ultraviolet lights (Conservation Magazine): The white-nose syndrome is devastating to many hibernating bats. The disease comes from a fungus and infects bats as they hibernate and often kill them. A major guide for scientists to start tackling this disease is to find its location, although it is difficult to locate as testing bats for the disease calls for killing them.

White Nose Syndrome Plagues Bats in Michigan

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

It has devastated bat colonies around the country causing widespread death with no known cure. According to biologists, white nose syndrome has caused “the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century of North America.” There is 100 percent mortality in some colonies and it could possibly lead to the extinction of some bat species.

White Nose Syndrome has been found on bats in Michigan for the first time. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons.

White Nose Syndrome has been found on bats in Michigan for the first time. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons.

White nose syndrome is a disease that has spread through the northeastern to central United States at a distressing rate. The disease is identified by the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects the skin on the nose, mouth, ears and wings of bats in hibernation with a white fuzzy growth. During hibernation, bats also display abnormal behaviors such as moving closer towards to the cave opening and waking up and flying during the day. These abnormal behaviors contribute to the early usage of the excess fat they store for the winter months in order to insulate them from the frigid temperatures. Exhausting their fat storage prematurely leads to emaciation and starvation.

White nose syndrome was first documented in 2006 in a cave in New York. Since then, the disease has eradicated more than 5.7 million bats. Species infected include the little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, eastern small-footed bat, Indiana bat, Gray bat, tricolored bat and the big brown bat. The syndrome is transmitted through bat-to-bat contact or infected environment-to-bat contact. Humans can also disseminate the fungus into new areas by using infected clothing and climbing gear and transferring it to a new cave, mine or roost.

White nose syndrome was discovered within Michigan’s borders in April 2014. It was found in three counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac. Five little brown bats were collected in February and March that showed signs of the disease. White nose syndrome was diagnosed in the bats by Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, in cooperation with the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory. Continue reading

Dune bill, bat disease grant and the climate change plan: this week in environmental news

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

U.S. Senate OKs bill to protect Sleeping Bear Dunes (Detroit Free Press): According to U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Michigan’s northern Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will see greater protection in upcoming years. On June 21, the Senate approved a measure designating 32,000 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline as wilderness. This designation follows 13 years of work updating the lakeshore’s overall management plan. The senator says the land will provide critical access to the shore’s recreational and cultural opportunities.

Shedd Aquarium showcases Great Lakes, increases awareness for conservation research (mlive): Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium has opened a new exhibit, “At Home on the Great Lakes.” The display showcases over 60 Great Lakes species and includes a sturgeon touch pool, where visitors can have an up close connection with the prehistoric fish. Interactive elements are also scattered throughout the exhibit, such as a screen with live news updates on Great Lakes protection progress. The goal of the display is to rally conservation groups and to inspire the public to protect the Great Lakes.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Awards Grants to 28 States for Work on Deadly Bat Disease (WhiteNoseSyndrome.org): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced grant awards Thursday totaling $950,694 for white-nose syndrome projects. 28 states received grants to monitor bat populations, as the disease has spread rapidly among bat species in past years. Michigan received one of the highest grant amounts, gaining a total of $47,500. The funds are to be used to slow the westward spread of white-nose syndrome, which has already killed approximately 5.7 million bats.

President Obama targets coal power plants, pushes renewable energy in new climate change plan (mlive): In a speech at Georgetown University Tuesday, President Barack Obama proposed steps to boost renewable energy production and to limit heat-trapping from coal power plants. The president hopes to generate enough electricity from renewable projects to power the equivalent of 6 million homes by the year 2020, doubling the electric capacity federal plants are currently producing. Additionally, the speech set a goal for federal housing projects to install 100 megawatts of energy-producing capacity by the end of the decade.

Human Activities Threaten Sumatran Tiger Population (Science Daily): Researchers have recently found that tigers in central Sumatra live at densities much lower than previously believed, which is likely the result of human disturbance. Though habitat loss and deforestation have long been known to threaten tigers, the data reveals that areas of human farming, hunting and gathering of forest products have very small tiger populations, regardless of their abundant populations of prey. The study reveals that more extensive monitoring of tigers and their habitats will be critical to the survival of the species.

Energy debates play out on the Great Lakes nearshore (Great Lakes Echo): In the midst of nearshore energy production controversy across the Great Lakes region, the western Lake Erie basin, between Detroit and Cleveland, is facing some of the greatest debate. The heavily populated area has been found to display some of the worst pollution, affecting fish and wildlife habitats, water quality and climate change effects. Some changes have been implemented to combat this, such as wind turbines along the shore, but they face positive and negative responses from environmental officials.

ENDANGERED!

At MNA, our Mission is to protect special natural areas and the rare species that live there. The goals of our blog are to cover the latest environmental issues affecting these areas and provide information about the efforts of our volunteers. Our weekly “ENDANGERED!” column serves to inform you about the endangered plant and animal species found in and around these special natural areas, and how you can contribute to conservation efforts before it is too late.

Indiana Bat
By Brandon Grenier

While we do not often see bats, they play an active role in the environment. With an appetite for bugs such as mosquitoes, moths and other pests, bats help manage insect populations. They also aid in the pollination of plants and seed dispersal of fruits and nuts.

First listed as endangered in 1967, the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) is only found in the eastern United States and there are only about 400,000 individuals left in the world. It is believed that the population of bats is now less than half of what it was in 1967, according to 2009 estimates.


Physical Appearance:

The Indiana bat is incredibly light, weighing only seven-to-eight ounces, roughly the weight of two sugar packets. It has a wingspan of 9-to 11-inches and usually is about five inches long. It has dark, grayish brown fur, with pink undersides and a dark petagium (wing membrane). Its ears are short and rounded. While it can sometimes be difficult to tell it apart from its relative the little brown bat, the Indiana bat has tri-color hairs that make it easy to distinguish upon close inspection.

Preferred Habitat:
The Indiana bat has a very specific habitat, with 85 percent of the current population found in only seven caves. The largest caves support 20,000-50,000 bats. In Michigan at the northern end of their range, Indiana bats prefer savanna habitats with sun-exposed trees for maximum warmth. In the winter, bats hibernate in large caves in Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri. However, a relatively new hibernacula (a cave where bats hibernate for the winter) has been found in northern Michigan at the Tippy Dam spillway. Because of their hibernation habits, Indiana bats are incredibly vulnerable to human disturbances.

Throughout the past decade, there have been reported occurrences of the bat in Calhoun, Cass, Washtenaw, Van Buren and St. Joseph counties.

Life Cycle:
In the spring, Indiana bats leave their hibernacula, sometimes travelling hundreds of miles. In early fall, Indiana bats flock the entrance of caves or mines and mating takes place. Sperm is stored in the female’s body until the eggs are fertilized in the spring. One bat is born to each female in late June, and it can fly within one month. Indiana bats generally live to be 14 years old.

List Status:

As human activity increases in the areas where Indiana bats hibernate, their delicate habitat shrinks. The bats are protected federally and are listed as endangered in Michigan. Commercialization of caves, the logging of dead trees and the use of pesticides and contaminants contribute to the decline of this species.

The Indiana bat is also threatened by a disease called white nose syndrome. More than one million bats have died from it since its discovery in 2006 in New York. The name refers to a white ring of fungus found on the faces of infected bats.

The presence of white nose syndrome has been found in more than 25 different caves and mines so far, and a moratorium has been placed on caving activities in those areas. Fortunately, the disease has not yet been found in Michigan.

Protection Efforts:
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is collaborating with state, federal and local government officials as well as university researchers and bat conservation groups to develop a response plan to white nose syndrome that prevents the disease and minimizes its impact on the species.

Indiana bat’s habitat can be protected by protecting mature forests, leaving dead trees standing to promote habitat and refraining from using insecticides.

How You Can Help:
To help protect this rare species, abstain from demolition and land clearing such as canopy removal and clearing snags. Cutting down trees significantly reduces bats’ habitat. However, if you must remove trees, you can build a bat house. Bat houses mimic the space between a tree trunk and bark and provide warmth. To learn how to build your own bat house, click here.

MNA volunteers are currently working to protect this and other endangered species, and you can help too. Join our efforts as a volunteer removing invasive plants in the special natural areas where this species lives. Or, become a steward and take responsibility for planning efforts to maintain a specific MNA sanctuary. To find out how to get involved, visit our website.