Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 20, 2014

Bats to be taken under wing in Sleeping Bear tree plan

TRAVERSE CITY — The Indiana bat loves to roost in large trees rife with peeling bark and plenty of nooks and crannies.

Diseased and dying trees could easily fit the bill for the endangered species, but the bats’ favored habitat created a bit of a conflict for local national park officials.

Officials at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are reworking their hazard tree management plan to allow them to take down a growing number of diseased trees before they become dangerous to park visitors. But from March or April to October, they’ll have to be mindful of rousting the roosting, endangered bats.

“The bats might be using those trees during the summer time for maternity roosts or any other kind of roosting habitat,” said Vincent Cavalieri, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s just something for the park to make sure any tree removal will be accompanied by some sort of checking for bats during summer months when the bats will be using the trees.”

Both the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat, which is on a proposed list of endangered species, could be found in the lakeshore as the weather warms. Bats play a significant role in their local ecosystems as insect predators and pollinators.

Bats tend to hibernate through the winter in caves, but once temperatures rise they head out to forests to mate, roost and teach their new pups to fly.

Working around the bats will take some planning because they roost in the months that are best for tree-cutting, said Kevin Skerl, the Chief of Natural Resources at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

“If we want to cut trees during that period, we have to find ways to minimize and mitigate impacts to those species,” Skerl said.

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