While millions of movie-goers flocked to their local theaters last weekend to give "The Batman" starring Robert Pattinson the most lucrative opening weekend for a film so far in 2022, it's an entirely different story for the actual bat population across Iowa and the rest of the country.
Monitoring program tracks for a fatal disease in bats
For about 10 years, through bat monitoring in Iowa, they've pinpointed why a decline in the bat population has been occurring in recent years. According to Radio Iowa, it's a disease called "White Nose Syndrome". Karen Kinkead of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said:
White Nose Syndrome is a fungus that was introduced into the eastern U-S many years ago and it has slowly moved westward and has is know found I believe from coast to coast — we do have it here in Iowa. And it’s a fungus that eats through the skin of the bat as it hibernates in the winter.
White Nose Syndrome will eventually kill the bats who "catch" it and "invasive shrubs" like honeysuckle are generally the culprit. There is no "cure" so the focus of the monitoring program has become to improve their habitat to make it healthier for them and prevent the disease in the first place.
Adding counties to the bat tracking program
Little by little, they've been able to add counties to their bat monitoring program along the way, but after coming into some new federal funding, the DNR now says it will be able to expand the program statewide within three years.
Iowa was granted more federal funding for the program
Federal officials chose states where the sound monitoring of bats is done. The states then come up with routes to be driven by cars with boxes on top that record the sounds of the bats as they use echo location to fly and find food. Those recorded sounds then let them know what type of bats they have in each state.
In April or May, they will begin asking for more volunteers to help. They will be working with Iowa State University and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation as the program expands.