High Elevation Cave Surveys for Bats and White Nose Syndrome

Science Center Objects

This project examined altitudinal movements of the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat and their use of high elevation caves on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawai‘i.

Large cave system on Mauna Loa volcano, Hawai‘i

Large cave system on Mauna Loa volcano, Hawai‘i Island, Hawai‘i. Photo: F. Bonaccorso 

Acoustic monitoring station on Mauna Loa

A technician checks an acoustic monitoring system on top of Mauna Loa volcano, Hawai‘i Island, Hawai‘i. Photo: C. Pinzari

Overview:

Baseline survey data were obtained during this project to examine the altitudinal movements of the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus semotus and their use of caves on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawai‘i. From mummified carcasses and skeletons, it is known that Hawaiian hoary bats enter and use caves in Hawai‘i although this is unusual in populations on continental North America. Investigations included the use of acoustic monitoring and visual surveys.

 

Highlights and Key Findings: 

Field work began on this project November 2012 and was completed in August 2013.  Key findings include acoustic documentation that high elevation lava tube entrance areas between 2,200 meters and 3,600 meters in the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve are important winter foraging sites for the endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat; the primary food source are noctuid moths that shelter in the cave by day and fly by night out of the caves; cave temperatures above 3,000 meters could potentially support growth of the fungus that is the causative agent of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) in bats; Hawaiian hoary bats have not been found to use high elevation lava tubes as hibernacula or as day roost sites; no cases of WNS have been observed in bats in Hawai‘i.

Progress:

This project is complete. A comprehensive technical report summarizing the winter use of caves by Hawaiian hoary bats is now available.

 

Technician examines a Hawaiian hoary bat by headlamp light

Research technician Corinna Pinzari examines a Hawaiian hoary bat by headlamp light. Photo: S. Smith