Friends of Chicago River Build Maternity Nests for Native Bats

An experienced publications and marketing editorial coordinator, Jerome Eberle previously served as an editorial assistant for Booklist Magazine in Chicago, Illinois. Outside his professional life, Jerome Eberle demonstrates a commitment to his community’s ecological well-being through his support for the Friends of the Chicago River (Friends), which initiated a campaign to aid Chicago’s bat population in May 2015.

Due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and the spread of a lethal fungal disease, bat populations throughout the world have suffered losses. Decreases in their population can lead to severe disruptions in many ecosystems, as many bat species hold important roles as seed dispensers and pollinators. Brown bats and other bat species native to the Chicago area act as natural insect controllers; a single half-ounce little brown bat can consume half its body weight in insects within a single night. Nursing female bats may consume more than their body weight and form colonies comprised of hundreds of other nursing mothers during mating season.

As part of a grant program allowing Friends to help numerous other native Chicago wildlife, the organization began constructing six bat condos for placement along the Chicago River. Each condo will serve as nesting sites for maternity colonies and features enough space for up to 2,600 mother bats and their young. Friends expects little brown bats and big brown bats to make the most use of the condos, as these are the area’s most common colonial bats.

In order to ensure the best placement of each condo, the organization worked closely with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Sites selected for the placement of each condo consist of areas that provide everything bats need to thrive in their environment, which includes abundant sunlight for warmth and an open space distanced from regular human activity. Selected sites also feature close proximity to water, where insects are plentiful.

Friends and Forest Preserve finished the construction and placement of two condos in May. The organizations plan to install the remaining four within the next two years.

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