Joy (who I am working for) and Max (field tech I am working with) have arrived eager to get in the field. We have spent a couple of days organizing and labeling gear, creating lists, filling out forms, going over protocols, hazards, etc. A lot of time has been spent going over the new rules for netting bats now that White Nose Syndrome (WNS) has been confirmed in Tennessee. We have to use completely separate gear, including clothing for each state and we have to decontaminate everything while we are netting and after we net. It’s a long detailed process and I have to be constantly aware of what I am touching. Decontaminating mostly consists of lysol and hand sanitizer. Although I’d like to hope that this will lessen the spread of WNS, I fear that our impact is minimal when fighting against this rapidly spreading fungus. Better than not doing anything at all though.
Once we got everything together and figured out our new methods, we set out for netting in the Nantahala National Forest. Sorry, no pictures this time around- I was too focused on working up bats and not wanting to worry about decontaminating my camera if I touched it at the wrong time. It was a slow netting night, only 3 bats, but it’s early in the season. It was probably for the best because we all had to be extra aware that we were following the new WNS protocol, plus I had to remember techniques from last year as well.
Realizing that some of you do not know what “netting” really entails I should probably fill you in, somewhat briefly. Basically we set up mist nets that usually range from 5-9 meters wide (sometimes more or less depending on the area) and we stack them as a “double high” net when we can. This ends up being a huge net stretched out on two 20 ft high poles, the net reaching to almost the top of the pole and going almost to the ground. The mist net is placed in a clear pathway or across a stream that a bat would use for foraging and navigating. The net has slack pouches in it, so a bat will fly into the net and then get a little tangled in, often dropping into the sag of the net. We check the nets (we usually have at least 2 nets set up, often more) every 8 minutes looking for bats. A pully system is used to lower the nets and get a bat out.
We then “work up” the bat at our station in the field. This takes only a few minutes and then the bat is released. We record various measurements, look for WNS wing damage, put a band on the wing (a little piece of metal with a label/number on it that just closes around the wing) and gather some other useful data. If the bat is an Indiana bat (and endangered species that we are tracking this summer) we place a transmitter on the her so we can track her to the tree roosts she is using. I’ll get into that later when it happens.
All in all, things have been pretty slow but smooth. They’ll be picking up soon I’m sure. Netting tonight!