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600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

This document is provided for archival purposes only.
Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.

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August 30, 2000
Contact: Madonna Luers (509) 456-4073
Chuck Gibilisco (360) 902-2364

Rare bats are watchable through WDFW website's "BatCam"

Click here to view the bats

A colony of rare bats in northeast Washington is now available for viewing through a video camera transmission on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) Internet website.

"BatCam"is a live picture of a maternal colony of 125 to 150 Townsend's big eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii) on the ceiling of an old cabin on private property north of Spokane. The website picture, refreshed every 15 seconds, is not as clear as WDFW biologists had planned for this first year of the effort. But videotapes being recorded from the same camera are providing WDFW and an Eastern Washington University graduate student some excellent new information about the very rare species of bat.

"The Internet connection is actually a bonus of the research," explained WDFW wildlife biologist Howard Ferguson of Spokane. "We need to learn more about these animals, in as unobtrusive a way as possible, to better protect them. Only 12 maternity roosts like this, where adult females give birth and rear their young, are known in our state, and only two are here on the eastside."

Ferguson found the bat colony last year while bird watching in the area. He contacted the owners of the property and learned that they were planning to remodel the structure, which would have required evicting the bats. The owners agreed to hold off on their plans if an alternative could be found.

With the help of Bats Northwest, Bat Conservation International (BCI), the National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF), and Washington state's Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA), grants were secured to provide the landowners with another building to leave the bat cabin undisturbed.

The research camera and Internet transmission connection became a reality thanks to a unique partnership that brought donated cameras and expertise from wildlife specialist Timothy K. Brown, technical assistance from the electronics and optical firm B.E.Meyers, a donation of 3,000 feet of cable and its installation from Jasper Technologies and U. S. West (Qwest), and further help from BCI and the Disney Foundation.

The bats are not always visible in the website picture because they move around according to air temperature; when it's cold, they cluster together in large numbers near the peak of the ceiling, and when it's warm, they're scattered in small groups or individually. The bats move out of the cabin to forage for insects at dark; an infrared source of light is used for the camera picture after dark, and the image can be blurry with bat movement. Camera angles will be moved remotely to try to afford the best view possible over the next month, before the bats migrate south.

"We hope to set up a better picture next year with different cameras," Ferguson said, "depending on funding through future donations."

"BatCam" is the second in WDFW's series of "WildWatchCams," showing otherwise difficult-to-see wildlife in native habitat across the state. The first was "EagleCam," providing a close-up view of a bald eagle nest near Kent in northwest Washington. From May through August, up to 6,000 persons per day logged on to that site to watch an adult pair of eagles lay and hatch two eggs, rear the young, and teach them to fly. Recently one of the fledgling eaglets knocked the camera out of position and "EagleCam" came to end for this season.

WDFW Watchable Wildlife program biologist Chuck Gibilisco says that a third in the series, "SalmonCam," will soon show an underwater view of coho salmon returning to a WDFW hatchery.

The "WildWatch Cam" projects are partially funded through sales of personalized license plates and private donations. Contributions of equipment, installation, and technical assistance from Timothy K. Brown and B. E. Meyers have helped launch and make possible this exciting series. Persons interested in assisting with the eagle, bat, salmon, seal, and other future wildlife camera projects can send a tax-deductible donation to: WildWatch Cam, c/o WDFW, 600 N Capitol Way, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.