Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Going Batty About Wildlife



Hey there, Water Conservation Station readers. I am one of the new interns in the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office and I am excited to share my thoughts on water conservation with you guys. For my first blog, I would like to share a topic that is close to my heart: wildlife. More specifically, how drought can affect wildlife. 

The western United States has been in a drought similar to the one we are facing in the south. However, they are facing a unique challenge: drowning bats. I know that sounds backwards.  If they are in a drought, how can bats be drowning?

Here is some bat biology to help you understand how bats drown during droughts. Bats drink in flight by swooping down to the waters surface. In large lakes and ponds, this is done very easily for bats; however, these natural sources of water are starting to disappear.

So where do the bats turn? Livestock drinking stations.
Livestock drinking station 
(photo courtesy of: Stanley Howe http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cattle_drinking_trough_-_geograph.org.uk_-_602555.jpg)

Livestock drinking stations are much smaller than lakes or ponds, and are surrounded by structures which make it difficult for bats to drink safely. As the water levels in these drinking stations go down, the bats can get stuck in the station. When they can’t get out and are tired of swimming, they often drown.  To alleviate this problem, ranchers have installed "bat escape ramps" to help trapped bats escape.  

Example of a bat escape ramp 
(photo courtesy of: Kary Schlick http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/lwm/aem/news/climate_change_and_herpetofauna.html)

Just like the ranchers out west are helping the bats, we can help our Georgia wildlife. Two groups of wildlife that are closely tied to water are birds and frogs.

Birds need water to help cool off during the hot Georgia summers. Birdbaths are great for local birds. They provide a place for them to clean and cool off during the summer. Placing the birdbath near brush cover gives the birds a place to preen once they are done cooling off. But you have to make sure that no predator can sneak up on the bathing beauties. The lower the bath, the more open area is needed around the bath to ensure that the birds are safe from any stealthy predators. Also, baths need to be cleaned frequently to help prevent the spread of diseases among the birds. Clean with 1 part bleach to 9 parts water and make sure to wear rubber gloves.
Frogs need water to stay healthy. Like Nicole said a few weeks ago, frogs breathe through their skin, so keeping it moist is essential. Backyard ponds can be a great habitat for a wide variety of animals, including frogs, turtles, birds and lizards. Ponds can help these animals survive when water around the state is difficult to find. And who doesn’t want to look out into their backyard and see a turtle sunning itself by your pond?

To keep your baths and ponds full, you can collect rain water with rain barrels. Or, while you wait for your shower water to warm up, you can collect the cold water in a bucket and use it to refill the baths. 
I’m looking forward to my time here at the Water Conservation Office! Talk to you again soon!

~Lauren
Water Conservation Intern

2 comments:

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