Bat wintering conditions studied in Belovezhskaya Pushcha
Specialists of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park and the Scientific and Practical Centre for Bioresources at Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences jointly went on an expedition to find wintering sites of bats in Belovezhskaya Pushcha – as informed by the state nature protection institution
“We’ve discovered that the territory of the national park has quite a lot of such places – or rather objects. In summer, forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha are home to most species of bats in Belarus. However, for them to survive in winter, shelters with above 0°C temperature are needed. Moreover, bats need a certain level of humidity, quietness and no light. There are many out-of-use (or used as warehouses) premises, basements and defence structures – such as military hangars, former command posts and other underground structures conditionally suitable for bats’ needs – on the territory of the park. These are suitable for them to hibernate in comfortable conditions. To survive winter months, bats use any shelter there: peeling plaster and paint, cracks in concrete, and even electrical wiring boxes,” expedition members explain.
Winter hibernation sites of several bat species have been discovered: Barbastella barbastellus (2nd protection category in Belarus’ Red Book), Myotis nattereri (3rd protection category), Myotis daubentonii, Plecotus auritus and probably Plecotus austriacus (4th protection category), and Eptesicus serotinus.
“Since it is prohibited to disturb bats in winter, we inspected shelters extremely quickly. The species were determined without any contact with them, and we managed to take only several photos,” experts add.
Following the results of the study, passports will be drawn up for many places of mass wintering of bats. Their protection will also be ensured – primarily, regarding the species listed in the Red Book of Belarus. In addition, researchers will look for ways to improve wintering conditions of the most vulnerable species.
By now, only a part of the park’s territory has been examined. The search work in Belovezhskaya Pushcha will continue.