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Ecologists Design Bat-Friendly Bridge to Protect Endangered Species

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designed a bridge that serves as a suitable habitat for gray bats.

Ecologists Design Bat-Friendly Bridge to Protect Endangered Species
The Kentucky Bridge is the first of its kind in the State. It serves as a perfect habitat for bats as well as a safe connection for motorists.

In 2018, during a routine check by the Kentucky team, they discovered a bridge with large cracks that serves as a gray bat habitat but was no longer in good condition due to adverse weather and lack of maintenance. They also found bat pup, which indicates that the bats are roosting under the bridge.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the gray bats has been on the endangered species list since 1976 and are threatened by habitat loss.

“Bats were finding cracks and crevices that were safe from wind, from predators, and safe from rain and it created almost like a cave-like habitat. We wanted to recreate those exact gaps but do it from the very first day the bridge was built and not have to wait for 30 years of deterioration,” said Andrew Logsdon, a KYTC ecology and permitting branch manager, in a video detailing the project.

The new bridge was designed by KYTC in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A gap of 1.5-inch was created in the structure. The intentional gaps do not affect the safety of the bridge, but they do provide more available roosting space than the bats previously had on the former structure.

Construction on the bridge took place in January and February when the bats were hibernating. With help of ecologists and engineers, the work was completed by the end of March

“This bridge project is the first of its kind in Kentucky, using an innovative and collaborative approach to mitigate the effects of much-needed bridge repairs on an important endangered species,” KYTC secretary Jim Gray said WPSD6 reports. “KYTC delivered a new bridge that is not only safe for motorists but is now providing habitat for an estimated 1,100 gray bats.”

Ecologists conducted survey to count how many bats had returned to the bridge. In June, the count was estimated at around 400 bats. By August, that number had nearly tripled.

“It’s nice to be able to help an imperial species of bat that is heavily affected by construction, human interaction, as well as white nose syndrome. It’s great to be able to aid in that,” ecologist Drew Powell said in KYTC’s clip.

In order to avoid interference with the habitat KYTC chose to keep the location of the bridge undisclosed.