AutoBat Lure

It feels like summer is only starting but this is a busy time of year for the Toronto Zoo’s 🦇bat team🦇!

A look at the AutoBat lure set up in front of a mist-net.

We’ve been in the field just under a month but things are already going full steam ahead. This past Monday we started testing the AutoBat.  AutoBat is an acoustic lure.

Developed in the United Kingdom, the goal of the technology is to try and attract more specific species to our nets in order to research them more effectively by playing recordings of bat social calls. The AutoBat was developed for small woodland bats, which is promising as the majority of Ontario’s bat species are also in forested areas. Dr. David Hill the inventor, noted that some bat species were not as accurately identified in these habitats compared to others using two common methods of bat research: bioacoustics monitoring and roost surveys.

In England, the AutoBat was used successfully to increase the net capture rate for the rare Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii). In the study, AutoBat significantly increased the capture rate and is a very useful tool for bat research. Just like in the United Kingdom, we’re hoping AutoBat will attract bats to our nets.  We place the AutoBat in front of our mist nets and test different calls throughout the night. This method has not been widely tested in North America so the Native Bat Conservation Program has teamed up with Dr. David Hill to test its efficacy with our species, particularly Species at Risk bats, here in Ontario.

We start our nights well before dark so that we have enough time to hike all of our equipment in. We also use this time to choose spots to set up the 6-meter-high mist nets, and set up a home base. By sunset everything is in place, and we start our survey right at civil twilight.

Right around 10:30 pm we had success🦇🦇🦇!

A northern myotis bat that we caught with the AutoBat. Notice the ID tag on it’s wing, so we can track this individual over time.

Not only had we caught a bat, but she was a northern myotis: an endangered species here in Ontario, and only about the size of a matchbox! She was quickly taken out of the net and placed in a bat bag so we could transport her to our home base for measurements. We process the bats as quickly as possible. After completing measurements, we fit the bat’s wing with a tiny metal band. These are identification tags, and they let us know if we catch them again in the future so we can monitor how these populations are faring over time.

Finally, we let the bat go and they fly off into the night. So far, the results of our AutoBat testing seem promising. Every northern myotis we catch provides valuable information to protect them now and in the future.

Interested in learning more about the Native Bat Conservation Program’s work? Or just learning more about our native bats here in Ontario? Be sure to keep checking back here for more blog posts on #WingedWednesdays.