Researchers Return to RRNP for Bats & Brats [Photo Tour]

A team of biologists with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program of Colorado State University recently returned to YVLT’s Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve for the third consecutive year to study the large maternal bat colony residing in the historic Main House.

Led by Rob Schorr and Jeremy Siemers, the researchers joined YVLT at the Rehder compound to enjoy some grilled bratwurst before night set in, when the bats begin to stir from their mid-day lull.

Dinner

Locating a suitable research facility to study bats was one of the team’s biggest challenges, explained Jeremy.  “Abandoned buildings like [the RRNP Main House] are ideal for us; the hard part is finding a place where people don’t mind the bats living there,” he said.  

Rob concurred.  “We didn’t want to invest time and money in a project where the test group gets kicked out shortly thereafter, so this was a great opportunity for us,” he explained.

During their visit to Routt County, the team will also conduct bat research at the Carpenter Ranch, a Hayden-area property under conservation easement with YVLT.  The multi-year study is documenting mortality rates among “little brown bats,” a population that has been decimated in recent years by the spread of White Nose Syndome (read more about the disease here).  Researchers are also examining the bats’ activity levels at various times of year and how often they enter and exit the roost.

Harp Trap

Pika inspecting the harp trap alongside Jeremy.

Members of the team spent the afternoon getting the Rehder facility ready for the evening’s research, including setting up the “harp trap” pictured above.  The basic premise is this: researchers temporarily seal off the porch with netting, so when the bats emerge from their roost inside the Main House at dusk, they get funneled into the harp trap, depositing the bats into a bag situated below.

The biologists then “process” the bats by taking their weight and forearm measurements, photographing their wings (fun fact: the veins on their wings are unique to every individual, like fingerprints are to humans), and affixing a “PIT tag” – Passive Integrated Transponder.  A PIT tag is similar to RFID tags for cats and dogs, assigning a particular frequency to each bat which allows researchers to determine when bats are coming in and out of the roost, as well as documenting their seasonal activity.

Setup

Jeremy and Rob prep the house before the bats ramp up their evening activity.

“There are probably a few hundred bats inside,” Jeremy estimated.  “This is predominantly a female roost; they give birth and raise their young here.  They actually love hot attics like this with the metal roof insulation.”

“We think the bats love this facility because they can get any temperature range they want,” Rob explained.  “They can move around from hot to cool areas.  Some were even discovered happily roosting at 113 degrees Fahrenheit.”

As the evening crept in, bats began to emerge from the roost and the researchers got back to work.

At Work

The process involves weighing the bats, taking forearm measurements, determining their age and sex, and tagging them with Passive Innovative Transponders.  PIT tags allow researchers to track the bats from day-to-day and year-to-year.

At Work-2

“The Rehder Ranch has become a study site for a wide range of groups – biologists from across the county have come here,” said Rob.

We think the Rehder Ranch is pretty special, too.  YVLT always enjoys hosting the CNHP team – thanks for visiting us at RRNP!

Youth Group Connects with Nature While Volunteering at YVLT’s Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve

Under a Colorado-blue sky on an idyllic day in June, 15 enthusiastic members of a youth group and their chaperones broke out shovels, rakes, and work gloves to give the Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve a well-deserved makeover for upcoming summer programming.

“The Rehder Ranch is so fun – I could definitely live out here!” exclaims 13-year old Aiden (below, right).  “Nature and electricity; what more could you need?  Here we have clean air and we get to run around and play with shovels!”

IMG_1355Christian and Aiden spreading fresh dirt in the flower bed.

The youth group – representing churches from all across the state – came to Steamboat on a week-long service trip which led them throughout much of Colorado.  The Rehder Ranch was a particularly special stop for these hard-working volunteers, who enjoyed the fresh air and beautiful setting as they planted flowers, pulled weeds, and prepped hiking trails for a scheduled bird walk at the Nature Preserve that weekend.

 

IMG_1358“It’s nice and pretty out at the Rehder Ranch,” says 11-year old Devyn.  “Nature seems limitless here.”

The group bonded while developing their gardening skills.  Aiden and rest of the Orange Team spent the morning picking grass seeds out of flower beds in the garden, pouring and raking new dirt, and planting Jonquil bulbs as Harrison Creek gushed in the background.

“This place is really cool!” says Christian, who was working alongside Aiden that day.  “I’ve been hanging out working, making new friends.  I like to move around and get exercise – it’s better working outside than inside.”

 

IMG_1362Jessie tending to the garden with a refreshing breeze flowing off of Harrison Creek.

The children also enjoyed seeing signs of wildlife at the Nature Preserve.  Some even spotted a sandhill crane that morning, as well as bear paw prints embedded in a patch of mud near the creek.

Experiences such as this are so important in cultivating a lifelong connection with the natural world.  A special thank you to the group for your help at the Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve!

YVLT Helps Eagles – and Bats – Soar!

Bat HouseEagle Scout Ian Savage and RRNP Caretaker Ryan Gelling showcase the luxurious new bat accommodations.

Seventeen-year old Eagle Scout Ian Savage stopped by the YVLT office this week to present us with his latest project, which he appropriately titled “Batman’s House.”

In search of a meaningful service project for the Eagle Scouts, Ian reached out to YVLT about the bat colony living at the Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve, which is believed to house one of the largest maternal bat roosts in Northwest Colorado.  After discussing his ideas with YVLT Executive Director Susan Dorsey, Ian set out to build houses for the 600+ bats that reside at the Rehder Ranch.

“First, I had to learn how bats live and what they would need; the kinds of living conditions these houses would have to provide,” explains Ian.  “I couldn’t believe how many insects the bats ate every day!”

Bat House Blueprints-page-001

After studying up on bats and logging in hours of research, Ian assembled a team of 15 Scouts to build five houses capable of supporting up to 300 bats each (“I was surprised to find out how tiny they are,” he says).  The intricate hand-build houses, shown above, are the product of over 65 hours of hard work.

20160516_163922

“Eagle Scout” is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America – a position Ian has been working towards since the fifth grade.  His next big project: after graduating from high school in two years, he hopes to earn a degree in microbiology fermentation science.  Thank you, Ian, for building new homes for our resident bats at the Rehder Ranch!

Interested in bat activity at YVLT’s Rehder Ranch Nature Preserve?  YVLT recently hosted a team of bat researchers at RRNP – click here to read more!