It all started 2016, when a neighbor found a dead Northern Long-eared Bat on the edge of Lost Farm, where our Nantucket office is located.
A rare species listed as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Northern Long-eared Bats are known to occur on Martha’s Vineyard, but not on Nantucket. This find prompted UMass Amherst grad student Zara Dowling to acoustically monitor bats on Nantucket, including at Lost Farm.
Working in partnership with Mass Audubon, Dowling with the assistance of Nantucket Conservation Foundation Biologist Danielle O’Dell, found several bat species at Lost Farm, the most common of which is the Northern Long-eared Bat.
Dowling then decided to expand the project to include mist netting and electronic tagging in order to determine if the bats were hibernating on the island. While most of the tagged bats hibernated in tree cavities, a few were found in the crawl space under nearby houses.
While more research needs to be done, it appears that the islands may be a refuge for these bats, which are suffering severely from white-nose syndrome on the mainland—a fungal disease that thrives in the cool damp environment in caves. This fatal condition had all but decimated the Northern Long-eared Bat populations in the northeast and beyond.
Mass Audubon will continue its work with our partners to research these unique Nantucket inhabitants and learn more about how to protect them and their habitat.