Hawaii state mammal hawaiian hoary bat

Hawaii State Land Mammal: Hawaiian Hoary Bat, Habitat & Threats

Picture a dark and quiet night in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. The moonlight casts a soft glow on the vegetation, and the only sounds you hear are the rustling of the leaves and the occasional chirping of insects. 

Suddenly, you see a small creature flying through the air, swooping and diving with unmatched grace: It’s the Hawaiian hoary bat, a unique and endangered species. With its brown fur, silver accents, nocturnal habits, and solitary nature, this bat is a mysterious creature that captures our attention. But despite its beauty, the Hawaiian hoary bat faces many threats. Still, with the help of conservation efforts, we can work together to protect this remarkable species and ensure that it continues to thrive for generations to come.

Key takeaways from this article Hawaiian hoary bat:

  • The bat is an endemic species to Hawaii, weighing only 14-18 grams, and has a 10.5-13.5 inches wingspan.
  • These bats are brown with silver coloration on their back, ears, and neck and are nocturnal, echolocate, insectivorous, and solitary.
  • Female bats are usually larger than males and are generalist insectivores that forage in various habitats, including the open ocean.
  • Their roosting habits range from sea level to 2,288 meters, and they roost solitarily in vegetation less than 4.5 meters tall.
  • The primary threats to the species are collisions with man-made structures, habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species, and roost disturbance.
  • DNA research informs conservation efforts, and video systems monitor bat activity around wind turbines, which cause the highest mortality.
  • The Hawaiian hoary bat is listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act, and state and federal agencies are working on conservation measures, habitat restoration, and predator control programs.
  • Public education and outreach aim to increase awareness, and the development of new wind-energy projects faces scrutiny and regulations.
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Hawaiian Hoary Bat (Lasiurus Semotus) Description

swarm of hoary bats at night illustration
a swarm of hawaiian hoary bats at night illustration

The Hawaiian Hoary Bat (Lasiurus semotus), also known as ʻōpeʻapeʻa, is a land mammal native to Hawaii. It has brown fur that is silver in color on its back, ears, and neck. It weighs between 14 and 18 grams and has a 10.5-13.5 inches wingspan. The Hawaiian Hoary Bat is nocturnal, meaning it’s active at night and uses echolocation to find food. It is an insectivore and is solitary, meaning it is usually alone. Females of this species have larger bodies than males.

Ecology and Behavior

The Hawaiian Hoary Bat is a generalist insectivore that preys on various insects, such as moths. It is drawn to light, which can cause it to encroach on towns. The Hoary bat is an opportunistic hunter, foraging in different habitats, including the open ocean. It is a nocturnal creature that uses echolocation to search for its prey. The hunting activity of the Hoary bat is highest on Hawai’i Island, but people have also observed it on other islands.

Reproduction and Roosting

From November to April, the Hawaiian Hoary Bat follows a seasonal reproductive cycle, breeding with a single mate in a season and finding a new mate the following season. Females are pregnant from May to June and typically give birth to twins in August, and mothers care for their young until they are independent.

Hairy Bats roost solitarily in vegetation less than 4.5 meters tall and in a wide range of plant species. Their habitat ranges from sea level to up to 2,288 meters.

Threats

Collisions threaten the Hawaiian Hoary Bat with man-made structures, habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species, and roost disturbance. 

Climate change is another threat, which can cause extreme weather events that disrupt the bat’s habitat and food sources. Climate change can also cause changes in temperature or rainfall levels at the bats’ roosting sites, leading to unsuitable conditions for the bats’ survival.

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The bat is threatened by wind turbines, with the highest mortality rate at the Kawailoa Wind Plant, where researchers have recorded 56 bat deaths. Mitigation measures include changing wind farm operation protocols, monitoring, and data collection to study and reduce further impacts.

Taxonomy and Population

The Hawaiian Hoary Bat is a species found throughout the main Hawaiian Islands. In 2015, researchers discovered a deep phylogenetic divergence between species, which means that bat is significantly different from other bat species in its evolutionary history. It suggests that the Hawaiian hoary bat evolved separately from other bat species for an extended period, leading to distinct genetic differences. 

A 2020 study found no evidence of sympatry, which means that researchers didn’t find any co-occurrence of two or more related species of bats in the same geographic area, where they may come into contact and potentially interbreed. There is no evidence that the Hawaiian hoary bat coexists with any other closely related bat species in the same area, indicating that it is the only bat species in Hawaii.

The population size and trend of this species are currently unknown. The primary threats to the species are collisions with man-made structures.

Research initiatives

Researchers are using DNA research to help with the conservation management of these animals. Conservation organizations use video systems to observe the impact of wind turbines on bats. These research initiatives aim to reduce the negative impacts on wildlife and the environment while increasing the use of wind energy as a renewable resource.

Management, conservation and protection

The US Endangered Species Act lists the Hawaiian Hoary Bat as endangered. State and federal agencies are working on conservation measures to protect the species. Wind turbines pose a significant danger to the species, and they have implemented various mitigation measures. Efforts are also underway to restore habitats and implement predator control programs. Public education and outreach are methods to increase awareness of the species and its conservation needs.

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The Hawaiian Hoary Bat Recovery Team has developed a recovery plan to support the conservation and protection of the species. This plan includes habitat protection and restoration, predator control, public education, and strict regulations when developing new wind-energy projects. Furthermore, habitat conservation is necessary for native forest restoration and protection.

Hawaiian Hoary Bat Summary

One of Hawaii state’s official mammals, the Hawaiian hoary bat is the only native terrestrial mammal in Hawaii and is currently an endangered species due to habitat loss and human-related threats. DNA research is helping to inform conservation efforts, and video systems are in place to monitor bat activity around wind turbines. 

The bats generally roost solitarily in vegetation less than 4.5 meters tall, and reproduction follows a seasonal cycle. The Hawaiian hoary bat is listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act. State and federal agencies are working on conservation measures such as habitat restoration and predator control programs. Public education and outreach programs are conducted to increase awareness.

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