Effectiveness of simulated water as a lure for bats in the Big Bend region of Texas



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The standard protocol for mist netting bats in the desert involves setting nets over bodies of water. In some arid study sites, bodies of water are hard to find and often surrounded by dense vegetation. This leads to wasted time searching for ideal netting sites, and nets can sometimes be damaged by vegetation. Previous studies have shown bats will try to drink from smooth, flat surfaces both in captivity and in the wild. It is likely that they rely on echolocation to find water sources, even when other methods (vision, olfaction, spatial memory) would indicate that those surfaces are not water. I attempted to use simulated water surfaces as a mist netting lure in an arid environment, at Big Bend Ranch State Park and Fort Leaton State Historic Site, Presidio County, Texas,in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. I used two different simulated water surfaces and a bare ground control, with three nets deployed each night of netting. The bare ground control net caught more bats than both simulated water surfaces combined. I also conducted a camera study in which a nighttime security camera was trained on a simulated water surface each night to observe the interest of bats in the simulated water surface without a mist net interfering. The camera data also showed that most bats were not interested in the simulated water. Passes caught on camera, especially drinking passes, were rare and sporadic. According to camera footage, bats did show more interest in the simulated water at a nearby multispecies roost, Fort Leaton State Historic Site. However, neither Fort Leaton nor Big Bend Ranch State Park showed enough bat activity for the simulated water to be considered an effective mist netting lure.



bats, desert bats, bat behavior, mist netting, mist netting lure, bats drinking behavior