Threatened bats found on farm

RARE FLYER: A long-tailed bat colony has been discovered near a South Canterbury farm.
RARE FLYER: A long-tailed bat colony has been discovered near a South Canterbury farm.

A farm owner's desire to build a small bridge across a South Canterbury stream has led to the discovery of a roosting area for a threatened native bat species.

The owners of Skipton Dairy Farm, near Fairlie, had applied to build a small bridge over Raincliff Stream.

The consent application led to Conservation Department (DOC) staff undertaking a site inspection in February.

DOC Geraldine ranger David Anderson knew the catchment could be a habitat for bats, so he decided to check it out as part of the visit.

"The corridor between the trees and stream would be the ideal foraging habitat. We knew they had been seen five kilometres or so downstream, so we thought we should inspect the area just in case," he said.

"But we didn't necessarily expect them to be here."

Automatic bat detectors were installed on the side of the stream.

"We discovered a lot of sound activity consistent with bats flying around the area, so we decided to install some nets," he said.

Anderson said the nets caught only one adult female bat, but after tagging her and installing a transmitter, she led staff to the roosting area near the farm.

He said five adult females and nine juveniles have since been discovered near the farm over the last month.

"They're a severely threatened species, so this was a great find."

"Any streambed with insects is a potential feeding area - you've got stoneflies, mayflies and mosquitoes, all of which are bat food."

Adult long-tailed bats weigh up to 12 grams. They give birth to a single pup during the summer and provide sole care for their young.

Anderson said the bats would not be very active over winter.

"They soon go into torpor (hibernation). It would be an interesting project for us over summer. We want to get some understanding of the actual population in the area," he said.

"It's important South Canterbury landowners know about this discovery, because we're keen to find any other bat populations."

Farm manager Michael Mawhinney said the discovery was "pretty different".

"I had no idea we would have bats here. The DOC staff were pretty cool about it, we were keen to help. I actually saw one of the bats - they were pretty tiny," he said.

The farm runs about 600 dairy cows. Mawhinney said it was still seeking consent for the bridge.

The Timaru Herald