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News | Aug. 21, 2020

Installation Management conducts survey of resident bats

By Natalie Skelton, DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Installation Management conducts survey of resident bats
Baby Big Brown Bat nursing from a makeup sponge. (Courtesy Photo by
Installation Management conducts survey of resident bats
Installation Management conducts survey of resident bats
Baby Big Brown Bat nursing from a makeup sponge. (Courtesy Photo by
Photo By:
VIRIN: 200821-D-D0441-1012
Despite the industrial nature of Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, and its large human workforce, the property is also home to native flora and fauna that are integral to the ecosystem and the overall environmental health of the installation.

Jimmy Parrish, chief of the Environmental Management Division, Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management Richmond, said his team developed a Natural Resource Management Plan back in 2018  to help with surveying and identifying existing natural resources including the southern wooded area of the installation and Parker Pond.

“This plan would allow us to not only have a better understanding of the non-human occupants of the installation, but also enable us to manage those resources,” Parrish said.

This year’s biological survey, conducted August 5-7, serves as an update to the 2018 project.

The first survey was an overall assessment of the installation that allowed for an in-depth study of Parker Pond and its wildlife, including migratory birds and their habitats.

More specific studies were also conducted, Parrish said. These included a study for the development of a management plan for the installation’s elk herd, a tree identification and survey, and a study for the development of an installation-wide vegetation study.

The vegetation study, Parrish explained, recommends “what we plant, where and why — based on soil type and accessibility to light.”

This year’s efforts have been focused on surveying a species population that might cause some to duck and cover, but Parrish said understanding these installation residents and protecting their habitat is critical to the ecological well-being of DSCR.

“Virginia has 17 different species of bats, and three of them are federally endangered,” Parrish explained. “The installation, especially our southern wooded area, lies potentially on the edge of a habitat for Rafinesque’s Big-Eared Bat.”

Rafinesque’s species is listed as a threatened species and is considered endangered in the Commonwealth of Virginia, he said. The Northern Long-Eared Bat and the Tri-Color Bat are two of the federally threatened species living in the state, that may also roost in the area.

“This bat survey is especially important, because bats are great neighbors. They love insects—one little brown bat has been documented to eat up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour, “said Parrish.

While the results of the survey are not yet available to identify the particular species of bat that makes its home on and around the installation, Parrish said the bats are most commonly found roosting at Building 34 and in the wooded area.

“Because of COVID 19, we cannot physically trap any bats,” he said. Instead, the survey team has set up bat detectors in the likeliest locations of bat activity.

“What the detectors do is listen and record the sounds the bats make,” Parrish explained.

Installation Management conducts survey of resident bats
(Graphic by
Installation Management conducts survey of resident bats
Installation Management conducts survey of resident bats
(Graphic by
Photo By:
VIRIN: 200821-D-D0441-1011
Using its mouth and nose, each bat species emits a slightly different sound that is unique to that species.  By listening to what sounds are captured on the detectors, the survey team can identify which flying friends are living on the installation.

Their appearance and reputation in popular culture have made bats rather undesirable to many people, but in addition to their beneficial insect appetites, Parrish said these bats are unlikely to carry diseases that could be transmitted to humans.

If someone comes across a sick, injured or dead bat on the installation, they should call Police Dispatch at 804-279-4888. Dispatchers will then notify the Environmental Management Division.

“After that, it’s best to stay away, for the safety of the bat,” he said. “Plus, Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources has a strict no touch/no catch/no bother rule concerning wildlife.”     

While the surveys are designed to identify the species, Parrish said the team will not make the exact locations of any bat colonies public.

“Our overall natural resources management goal is to ensure that the installation can support those who are supporting the warfighter, but at the same time protect what Mother Nature has blessed us with,” he said. “We believe that we can be successful with both.”

Virginia Bat Facts

There are many myths regarding bats. These myths add to the fear that people feel about their presence.

  • Bats are the only mammal that can truly fly. They are not flying mice and aren’t related to rodents at all. They are closely related to primates and are all in the group Chiroptera, Latin for “hand wing,” meaning their wings are essentially flaps of skin connecting their long fragile fingers together.
  • The Virginia Big-eared Bat is the state bat of the Commonwealth.
  • Bat hibernation caves are known as hibernacula.
  • Bats will not get in your hair and will not attack a person.
  • Bats are not blind. All species of bats can see.
  • Virginia has 17 of the more than 1,000 bat species worldwide.
  • Bats have knees that are completely backwards compared to other mammals, as well as hind legs that go outward to allow for rotation of the hind limbs. This gives bats the ability to hang upside down by their toes.
  • Bats are not dirty animals. They groom themselves daily just as a cat does to keep its fur soft and clean.
  • Three of the bat species in Virginia are federal endangered species (Gray Bat, Indiana Bat and Virginia Big-eared Bat); the Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat, also known as the Eastern Big-eared Bat, is a state threatened and endangered species.
  • The bats in Virginia are divided into two categories: cave bats and tree bats. Cave bats hibernate in caves, while tree bats hibernate in leaf clusters, under decaying logs, in hollow trees, or sometimes in abandoned mines or old buildings.
  • Without bats in this world, a domino effect of problems from insect outbreaks to loss of certain plant species could be anticipated.