TO SEARCH OR NOT TO SEARCH: HARNESSING THE POWER OF STATE DATABASES FOR YELLOW BAT CONSERVATION RESEARCH IN TEXAS
Texas houses the largest bat diversity in the nation. Some species roost in caves, buildings, and old mines, while others roost in trees. Among these, little is known about three species of tree dwellers -- the Northern (Lasiurus intermedius), Southern (Lasiurus ega), and Western (Lasiurus xanthinus) yellow bats. Although L. ega and L. xanthinus have been considered rare in Texas, the number of encounters has increased recently. In this study, we assessed the prevalence of the three species of yellow bats in Texas utilizing the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) database, which summarizes all bats submitted for rabies testing. We examined the database by year and county occurrences of each species. Approximately 552 of 685 yellow bats submitted from 2004-2014 come from Hidalgo Co., Nueces Co. and Cameron Co. Texas, with 99 identified as L. ega. Furthermore, records of L. xanthinus have increased after first being recorded in the state in 1996 in Brewster Co. In the past four years, 8 yellow bats have been submitted from El Paso Co. and other records are known from Val Verde Co. The increasing number of records (L. ega reached a high of 10 by 2013) indicates that although once intermittent, L. ega and L. xanthinus are encountered more frequently than before. Evaluating records of yellow bats in the DSHS database allowed us to identify counties in Texas that might be productive for roosting behavior studies of these rarely researched species. Preliminary field studies are underway in Cameron Co. to analyze roost preferences for two of these yellow bats (L. ega and L. intermedius).