NIGHT MOVES: Biologists Work to Dispel Fears, Preserve Bats at Fort Bragg

Rafinesque's Big-eared Bat

Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat

Bats have long been associated with Halloween. Indeed, the origin of Halloween has a long history. Once celebrated during the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) in what is now Ireland, Great Britain, and France, the Celts believed that on 31 October the ghosts of the dead returned to earth the day before their new year. They built sacred bonfires, dressed in costumes, and left food on their doorsteps for the roaming ghosts. This eventually was secularized and evolved into what we know as Halloween in the present day.

So where do bats fit into Halloween? It is believed that the huge bonfires built to keep spirits away attracted insects to the fire. Those insects buzzing about in turn attracted bats, which are voracious insectivores. The festival of Samhain was a celebration of the harvest and the change of the season from fall to winter. It was all very innocent really. Bats were taking advantage of the insects around these huge fires and at that time, people had no idea they would eventually become associated with Halloween.

Folklore of vampires and blood suckers were common across Europe, so in the 17th century when Europeans learned of bats in Latin America that feed on blood they were given the common name vampire bats. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until Bram Stokers book Dracula and the vampire movies of the 1950’s that the idea of evil bloodsucking creatures took flight. Suddenly, these small, winged mammals were demonized and became the creatures some people wrongly fear today.

Hanging Red Bat

Hanging Red Bat

The unknown leads to many misconceptions and fears of a mammal that is in reality extremely beneficial. There are many bat myths circulating around.

  • Myth 1: Bats are blind. FALSE. While they actually do have good eyesight, for most that is not their primary way to seek food or navigate the night sky. They use what is known as echolocation to seek out their prey and fly at night. Echolocation is a biological sonar system whereby the bat emits a high frequency sound and uses the corresponding echo from that call to determine the location and identification of objects and prey. This allows them to navigate in total darkness and see everything, sensing obstacles as fine as a human hair.
  • Myth 2: Bats are flying mice. FALSE. Bats are not rodents and are more closely related to you than a mouse.
  • Myth 3: Bats get tangled in your hair. FALSE. Remember that echolocation sonar system they use? It can detect an obstacle as fine as a human hair, so no worries!
  • Myth 4: All bats are blood suckers. FALSE. While there are three species of vampire bats found in Latin America, only one targets mammals. However, they don’t suck blood, they lap it up like a kitten with milk. The bats produce a powerful anticoagulant in their saliva to keep the blood from clotting. This enzyme is used in medication that helps prevent strokes in humans.
  • Myth 5: All bats are rabid. FALSE. Not even close! Sure bats can contract rabies like other mammals and some may. Nonetheless, the vast majority of bats are not infected. If you see a bat that you can easily approach it is likely sick and you should avoid contact. This includes your pets as well. Never handle a bat or any other wild animal – leave that to the pros!
  • Myth 6: Bats don’t matter. FALSE. Bats DO matter! Why? Bats are on the first line of defense against many insects and pests. One small Mexican free-tailed bat, found here on Fort Bragg, can eat about 1,000 insects per hour! It has been estimated that pest-control services provided by bats likely saves the U.S. agriculture industry at least $3 billion a year. Without these nighttime flying mammals there would be more pests eating precious crops. As for the bats that eat nectar and fruit, without them seeds would not be dispersed and plants would not be pollinated. Items such as bananas, avocados, and tequila would vanish.

There are over 1,300 species of bats found all over the world, except in extreme Polar Regions, and they come in all shapes and sizes from the tiny bumblebee bat to the large flying foxes and everything in between. Bats are the only mammals that have developed powered flight; other flying mammals only glide. A bats wing is made from thin skin stretched between elongated fingers, allowing the bat to maneuver more accurately than a bird.

Bats eat many different things, including insects, fruit, nectar, fish, and least of all, blood. All of the bats found in North Carolina are insectivorous so you will not find any fruit, nectar, vampire, or fish-eating bats in this locale. About two-thirds of all bat species feed on insects and other small prey.

Not all bats live in caves. Bats found on the Installation do not use caves while in this area, but some species may travel to caves in the winter to hibernate. Potential roost locations include tree foliage, hollow trunks, under the loose bark of trees, tree cavities, buildings, bridges, and bat houses.

Red Bat & Seminole Bat Side-by-Side

Red Bat & Seminole Bat Side-by-Side

The Endangered Species Branch has documented ten of the sixteen different species of bats found in North Carolina on Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall, including two rare species: Big Brown bats, Evening bats, Hoary bats, Silver-haired bats, Eastern Red bats, Tri-colored bats, Seminole bats, Brazilian (or Mexican) Free-tailed bats, Southeastern bats and Rafinesque’s Big-eared bats. The Southeastern and Rafinesque’s Big-eared bats are both listed as Federal Species of Concern and North Carolina Special Concern species.

Biologists search for bats using special equipment to record their echolocation calls, and by searching in hollow trees, under bridges, in old buildings, and catching bats in mist nets. Mist nets look like giant hair nets that are strung up across an area where bats will come to frequently (like a water source) with hopes that a bat flies into it so it can be captured. Oftentimes, the bats avoid the mist nets due to their echolocation call, which causes the bat to “see” and hear the net so they fly around to avoid capture.

Red Bat & Seminole Bat Side View

Red Bat & Seminole Bat Side View

Bats are in trouble. Not only are they are continually threatened by habitat loss each year, but since 2007 they’ve been decimated by a rapidly spreading fungal infection known as White Nose Syndrome. First detected in New York, it has spread into the central United States and as far north as Quebec, killing millions. What can you do? Don’t be afraid! You can help bats by encouraging them to roost in your yard by constructing a bat house or by protecting their roost sites and habitat. Build a bat house and you may be able to save money on bug repellant!

Just in time for Halloween is Bat Week 2015 starting on 25 October 2015. For more information on bat week visit http://www.batweek.org/. For more facts about bats you can also visit Bat Conservation International for up to date information at http://www.batcon.org/

 

REDUCING YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL PAW PRINT

Husky Pup

If your pet is a part of your family, shouldn’t he be as green as you are? With a few simple changes, you can reduce your environmental paw print and create a healthy, happy and sustainable companion.

CHOOSE A HEALTHY PET FOOD

To choose a healthy food for your pet, research the production methods and values of your pet food provider. Avoid brands that contain by-products, hormones, genetically modified ingredients, chemicals, preservatives, sweeteners, artificial flavors and artificial colors. Real meats and vegetables should be the main ingredients. All pet foods should be certified by the American Association of Feed Control Officials, an organization which ensures compliance with national requirements for pet food standards. Visit The Dog Food Project to learn more.

Or create your own pet food. A healthy balance generally contains 40 percent protein such as beef or chicken, 30 percent vegetables and 30 percent carbohydrates such as oatmeal or brown rice. For recipes, explore books such as Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Your Dog by Rick Woodford. Consult with your veterinarian to find the ideal balance for your pet.

CONSIDER ENVIRONMENTALLY PREFERRED ACCESSORIES

Choose pet toys and accessories such as leashes, collars, beds and dishes that are created with recycled content and biobased/natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp or corn plastic. Avoid petroleum based plastics and those that may contain bisphenol A or BPA. BPA is a chemical compound that may contribute to health concerns such as neurological disorders, cancer and obesity. Plastics marked with the numerals 3 and 7 can potentially contain BPA. Look for BPA Free on labels.

When you purchase dishes for your pet, stainless steel bowls are the most sustainable choices. Ceramic bowls are a sustainable option as long as they are marked Lead Free.

You can create your own pet toys with common reclaimed materials. Dogs will enjoy a recycled sock filled with an empty plastic bottle. Tie strands of scrap yarn to a hanger to create a fun toy for cats.

COMMIT TO PROPER PET HYGIENE

Dispose pet wastes properly. If pet wastes are not handled in a sanitary manner, they can infiltrate the water supply and create pollution.

Choose biodegradable business bags. Also, choose naturally derived cat litters. Clay cat litters can contain minerals that are extracted by strip mining, an activity that is detrimental to the environment. In addition, clay cat litters are not biodegradable. In fact, of the estimated ten million tons of pet wastes that travel to waste repositories every year, two million tons are non-biodegradable cat litters. Furthermore, clay cat litters often contain silica dust, which can be detrimental to the respiratory health of pets and pet parents. Environmentally preferred cat litters are produced with materials such as recycled newspapers, pine, wheat and corn.

Clean pet accidents naturally with environmentally sound materials. Use baking soda to remove excess moisture, and clean the affected area with diluted vinegar to effectively eliminate bacteria and odor. If a stain or odor remains, apply lemon juice to the affected area for 20 minutes and then rinse with water.

When bathing your pet, consider natural grooming materials and flea care products that do not contain parabens, sulfates, artificial dyes, artificial fragrances, phosphates and harsh chemical pesticides. Create an organic flea repellant by placing one drop of citronella essential oil, one drop of cedar wood essential oil, one drop of lavender essential oil and one drop of white thyme essential oil onto your dog’s collar. These oils will deter fleas for one week. Create a natural flea shampoo for dogs by combining one cup of liquid castile (vegetable based) soap and one cup of distilled water with one teaspoon of jojoba oil and five drops of peppermint essential oil in a bottle. Wash your dog as normal. Do not use essential oils on cats. According to veterinarian Dr. Richard Pitcairn, an herbal flea powder with rosemary is an effective and gentle flea remedy for cats. Flea combs are essential yet sustainable tools in your arsenal against pests.

PRACTICE THE THREE Rs

Consider the responsibilities of pet ownership prior to commitment. By purchasing or adopting an animal, you are commiting to care for that pet for the remainder of its life. Individuals who are not fully committed to pet parenthood often abandon their pets or donate them to a shelter, thus increasing the population of animals that can tax our resources.

Choose your pet carefully to ensure a successful experience. Consider a recycled animal and adopt from a shelter. Fort Bragg has a pet adoption facility on Reilly Road across from the Directorate of Public Works and just prior to the entrance to Pope Field. Call 396.6018 for information. There are many adoption facilities and shelters in Fayetteville and the surrounding region as well.

Reduce the pet population by spaying or neutering your pet upon your veterinarian’s recommendations. By humanely controlling the pet population, you can benefit your pet’s health and reduce strains on the environment.

Recycle clean pet food cans with your other steel cans.

Recycle used pet items by donating to animal shelters or veterinary clinics.

SELECT THE IMAGE FOR A PRINTABLE POSTER!

Green Pet Flier

SOURCES OF GREEN PET PRODUCTS …

Muttropolis

Earth Animal

Pets Head to Tail

Harry Barker

Earth Doggy

Wagging Green

Hip Green Pet

The Good Dog Company

Aroma Paws

EcoPets

Pup Life

West Paw Design

Pups Place

Olive Green Dog

Planet Dog

EcoHound

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Sustainable Paw Prints

How to Go Green:Pets

Green Your Pets

Collared Greens

Green Tips for Your Dog

BUILDING A GARDEN TO BUZZ ABOUT

Honey Bee

Pollinators are essential to our environment. Creatures such as bees, bats, butterflies and hummingbirds move pollen from plant to plant, thus enabling flowers, fruits and vegetables to produce seeds. In fact, this ecological service is necessary for the reproduction of 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s food crop species. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, pollinators contributed to the production of nearly $30 billion of crops in 2010. Pollinators are also a keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. The foods produced as a result of pollination are major elements of the diets of a variety of birds and mammals.

However, the natural act of pollination has become severely threatened. Populations of pollinators are on the decline due to habitat loss, pesticide use and introduced diseases. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that nearly 25 percent of the national honeybee population perished last winter. The United States Geological Survey has found that the bat population has decreased by as much as 90 percent since the occurrence of a devastating illness called White Nose Syndrome. And, butterfly populations have dropped sharply over the past 20 years as well. As the numbers of pollinators decrease, our viable and
affordable food supplies will decrease, too.

How can you assist valuable pollinators? Build a pollinator garden! With a few simple considerations, you can turn your landscape into a Mecca for bees, butterflies, bats and hummingbirds.

Native plants in shades of blue, violet, white, yellow and scarlet are attractive to pollinators. Choose plants with a wide range of bloom times so that pollinators will find a continuous source of food throughout the year. Also, use a range of floral shapes to accommodate the pollinators who visit your garden. Try bell-shaped (campanulate) or trumpet-shaped varieties such as foxglove, honeysuckle and petunia. Flowers with flat faces and narrow tubes, or salverform flowers, include phlox and primrose. Ligulates are flowers with long, thin petals that are typically arranged in rays and include daisy, cosmos and aster. Common plants for a pollinator garden include aster, bee balm, rudbeckia, liatris, butterfly weed, coneflower, Joe-Pye weed, phlox, coreopsis, gaura, veronica, penstemon and goldenrod. Herbs – especially thyme, oregano, sage, basil, peppermint, lavender, catnip and rosemary – will draw pollinators, and you can reap their culinary benefits as well.

Plant flowers in drifts, or groups according to species. Masses of three to five flowers will attract pollinators more effectively than individual flowers scattered throughout the garden.

Encourage nesting and roosting by incorporating canopy layers such as trees and shrubs in the garden. Patches of fallen branches and leaves create suitable nesting and roosting habitats, too. Build nests for solitary bees and boxes for bats.

Provide accessible water sources, and supplement the food sources in your garden with feeders. Butterflies will appreciate a puddle because the water contains the dissolved minerals that they need to supplement their diets. You can easily create a butterfly puddle by lining a small dish with sand, filling it with water and placing it in your garden. Hummingbirds will enjoy a feeder filled with simple sugar water. Dissolve one cup of white, granulated sugar in four cups of boiling water. When the sugar water is cool, add it to your feeder and place the feeder near your garden. Avoid red dyes. Artificial dyes can be harmful to hummingbirds.

Also, reduce the use of pesticides in your lawn and garden. While pesticides are effective at ridding your garden of crop destroying pests, they can also decimate the populations of pollinators and other beneficial creatures such as ladybugs, lacewings, frogs and lizards. Use sustainable, integrated pest management techniques instead of pesticides.

SELECT THE IMAGES FOR PRINTABLE POSTERS!

Pollinator Garden

Hummingbird Nectar

Bee House

FOR MORE INFORMATION  …

Xerces Society for Insect Conservation

Pollinator Partnership

US Fish and Wildlife Service

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

USDA Forest Service Gardening for Pollinators

Building Nests for Native Bees

National Wildlife Federation : Build a Bat House

Criteria for a Successful Bat House

Be Ever-Green When Choosing Your Christmas Tree

Article by Jonelle Kimbrough, Fort Bragg Environmental Management

Strange, but true: the first artificial Christmas tree was created in the 1930s by the Addis Company with the same design and production process used to create another familiar item: the toilet brush.

Now, Christmas trees are a major seasonal commodity – whether they are reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s wan pine or spectacularly realistic replicas of majestic firs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, consumers in North America purchased over nine million artificial trees and over 50 million live trees last year. A Nielsen survey conducted by the American Christmas Tree Association discovered that consumers will spend over one billion dollars on artificial trees and $984 million on live trees annually. Before you deck your halls for the holidays, consider the environmental impacts of your Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree Branch

THE PROs and CONs OF AN ARTIFICIAL TREE

Artificial trees are convenient because they may be enjoyed year after year. A variety of styles, sizes and colors are available.  They are becoming increasingly realistic in their appearance, and they often feature festive lights and decorations. Since they are purchased only once, they require no annual expense. They also require minimal maintenance. Daily watering is not required, and the removal of fallen needles is unnecessary. After the holidays, disposal is usually not a concern. Artificial trees can simply be stored away until the following year.

However, many artificial Christmas trees are manufactured with petroleum based plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC and similar plastics can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the manufacturing process and during the consumer life cycle. These VOCs include carcinogens such as dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride. Of the artificial trees sold in the United States every year, 85 percent are imported from foreign markets, and these may contain lead and tin – additives used to create more malleable PVC. In fact, many artificial trees are labeled with warnings due to their heavy metal content. Most artificial trees cannot be recycled. Furthermore, they are not biodegradable and create waste when discarded.

THE PROs AND CONs OF A LIVE TREE

Live trees are a renewable resource. Many are farmed specifically for the purpose of holiday decoration, so seedlings are continuously replanted, and forests are sustainably managed. Live trees provide a habitat for wildlife. Live trees can be recycled for numerous purposes. Mulch can be used for projects such as landscaping, trail maintenance, habitat restoration and beach erosion mitigation. The Packaging Corporation of America in Wisconsin uses wood pulp from recycled trees to power its mill in a unique waste-to-energy initiative. A pharmeceutical company in Canada has even created an influenza medication from the shikimic acid extracted from the needles of discarded Christmas trees. Live trees also improve air quality. A single farmed tree absorbs more than one ton of carbon dioxide throughout its life. Each acre of trees produces enough oxygen for the daily needs of 20 people. While transportation costs are involved in the markets for both live trees and artificial trees, live trees are often grown locally or regionally whereas artificial trees are often imported from foreign countries. Therefore, live trees reduce emissions and fuel costs associated with international shipping.

On the other hand, live trees are often treated with pesticides and fertilizers that are potentially detrimental to public health. Some live trees are even chemically color enhanced. Live trees do have to be harvested and purchased every year, and they require more maintenance such as consistent watering and removal of fallen needles. Live trees are often blamed for fires, but most incidents are the result of electrical fires and not dry trees.

THE BOTTOM LINE

So, is an artificial tree or a live tree more environmentally conscious? The real environmental impact lies not in the amount of use one can garner from each tree but in the content, production process and disposal options. Recent research has demonstrated that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be as environmentally sound as a live tree. The typical life span of an artificial tree, however, is only six to ten years, depending on its quality.

If the one-time cost and minimal maintenance of an artificial tree are most appealing, choose an option that has been manufactured in the United States to reduce exposure to contaminants. Use your artificial tree as long as possible. When you are ready to purchase a new model, donate your unwanted tree to a community agency such as a school, recreation center or charity to reduce waste. You could even repurpose components of your obsolete tree to create wreaths and garlands.

If you prefer a live tree, choose an organic option that is treated with few or no chemical pesticides, fertilizers or color enhancers. The North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension estimates that each tree grown in North Carolina needs only a quarter of an ounce of pesticides. Most state farmers, though, rely on pesticide-free integrated pest management techniques. If possible, opt for a locally or regionally harvested tree to ensure minimal contamination and to support the local economy. Visit Local Harvest for a list of tree farms and growers in your area.

Recycle your live tree at the end of the holidays. Here are some local options …

– The Fort Bragg Landfill will accept Christmas trees for recycling after December 26. Landfill access is located off Longstreet Road just prior to the ACP. Hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 AM to 3 PM. Call 396.6873 or 432.0295 for more information.

– Corvias Military Living will offer a curbside Christmas tree collection from December 26 through January 17 for residents of post housing. Residents may place their trees at the curb on their designated trash collection days.

Cape Fear Botanical Garden will host the annual Grinding of the Greens in January. Volunteers will turn  Christmas trees into mulch for the Garden.

– The City of Fayetteville and other municipalities may offer Christmas tree recycling as well. Contact your municipality or waste management provider for more information.

PLEASE REMOVE ALL LIGHTS, DECORATIONS AND STANDS PRIOR TO RECYCLING YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE.

Do not burn Christmas trees or their branches. Fresh pine and fir woods are extremely flammable. Fires generated by Christmas trees can rapidly burn out of control and create an accumulation of a combustible and potentially dangerous compound called creosote in fireplaces and chimneys.

Pollinators are the Bees’ Knees

Have you enjoyed a fresh cup of coffee today? Have you indulged in a bar of chocolate? Have you relished a crisp apple or a juicy blueberry? Thank a pollinator!

Bee2

Pollinators such as bees, bats, birds and butterflies are vital to the natural reproduction processes of plants. They carry pollen from plant to plant, ensuring the development of full bodied fruits and full sets of viable seeds. Pollinators are known as a keystone species, or a species that performs a unique and crucial role in an ecosystem. Without its keystone species, an ecosystem would suffer significant adverse impacts or even cease to function.

Pollinators are, in part, responsible for the production of as many as 80 percent of our flowering plants and food crops. Worldwide, thousands of plants cultivated for food, fibers and medicines must be pollinated by animals to produce the goods on which we depend. Some of these products include apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds and even tequila. In the United States, pollination by honey bees and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.

Unfortunately, a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences found that the populations of pollinators are rapidly declining due to a variety of factors: habitat loss, chemical use, invasive plants and animals, diseases, parasites and malnutrition. For example, a disease known as White Nose Syndrome is responsible for the deaths of almost six million bats in North America. A phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder – in which honey bees abruptly and inexplicably disappear from their colonies – has created considerable environmental and economic repercussions throughout the world, and it has led to the loss of 50 percent of all honey bee hives in the US in the last two years.

Without pollinators, our food supply would be seriously and perhaps irreparably threatened. However, individuals can engage in simple steps that will help to bolster the populations of pollinators.

WHAT YOU CAN DO …

– Plant a garden to attract pollinators. Provide a range of native flowering plants in a variety of colors and shapes. Pollinator attractors include aster, azalea, bee balm, goldenrod, milkweed, redbud, sunflower, basil, blazing star, cosmos, gaura, lavender, rudbeckia, purple coneflower, rosemary, Russian sage and veronica.

– Avoid the use of pesticides and other chemicals in your home and garden.

– Build houses for native solitary bees and bats.

– Lessen your environmental impacts by conserving energy and water, reducing emissions, reducing waste, recycling and improving air quality.

If pollinators thrive, then our crops will thrive. In turn, we will thrive.

 

RESOURCES

The Xerces Society

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Pollinator Partnership

The Great Pollinator Project

Building a Bat House from the National Wildlife Federation

Building a Bee House from the National Wildlife Federation

The Butterfly Site

The Hummingbird Society

Bat Conservation International

North Carolina State Beekeepers Association