Southwest Ohio bike trail project cautious about bats

April 07, 2013 at 04:43 PM

KETTERING, Ohio (AP) — Workers have bats on their minds as they prepare a southwest Ohio pathway for bicycle riders, runners and walkers to use this summer.

That's because some species of the flying mammal are threatened or endangered. The tiny Indiana bat present in Ohio has been listed as endangered for nearly five decades.

The Dayton Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/179B3Wi) that trees in the path of the Dayton-Kettering Connector were taken down before April to avoid disrupting winter hibernation. A federal grant of nearly $200,000 to help the project also restricts tree removal, and the state of Ohio urges that trees that might be bat habitats be left alone when possible.

The two-city project will run from the University of Dayton to the Stroop Road-Wilmington Pike area south of Dayton. It's expected to open in early summer.

While bats have a scary image to some people, experts say they play an important role in insect control.

"Bats consume their body weight in insects during the summer," said Jennifer Norris, a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. She said a 2011 study showed that losing the insectivores would increase agricultural pest control costs by billions of dollars.

She said the Indiana bat has been declining due to habitat loss and a fungus that attacks bats during hibernation. They have "high site fidelity," meaning they return to the same area to roost and give birth each year.

While it's unlikely the bats would be in urban areas, Norris said: "We are finding them in areas that surprise us as we study them more."

___

Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.