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Big Brown bat


Bats have long served informally as public health surveillance systems for rabies. Now USGS scientists are working together with colleagues at Colorado State University and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control studying bats that inhabit homes to determine exactly what the role of bats is in the transmission of rabies.

In Fort Collins, Colorado, USGS biologists are using urban bat colonies to field test new methods of monitoring bat population dynamics in relation to rabies transmission. This is part of a cooperative study with Colorado State University and the Centers for Disease Control. Bats are marked with Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags) to assess their survival and movements. This is the first assessment of the status of bats in relation to rabies that follows known, marked individuals through time. Historically, marking bats involved attaching numbered bands to their wings, but this method can injure and disturb bats, and bands were often lost or rendered indecipherable. PIT tags are tiny electronic capsules that are permanently inserted under the skin of the bat and transmit information to remote sensors placed at roost entrances. When a bat enters or exits a roost, a computer records its unique identification information. Rigorous preliminary studies reveal no detrimental effects of PIT tags on bats, and the quality of information provided by this system will markedly improve efforts to monitor the health and status of bats.

USGS-FORT biologists are continuing a legacy of bat research started early in the past century. By applying new technologies to old questions with elusive answers, the USGS is obtaining new and exciting information on this large and ecologically important group of mammals. Continuation of these efforts will help to ensure the proper assessment and future welfare of U.S. bat populations.

USGS Bat-related Research

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