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Open-File Report 2008-1363

Summary and Analysis of the U.S. Government Bat Banding Program

By Laura E. Ellison


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This report summarizes the U.S. Government Bat Banding Program (BBP) from 1932 to 1972. More than 2 million bands were issued during the program, of which approximately 1.5 million bands were applied to 36 bat species by scientists in many locations in North America including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Throughout the BBP, banders noticed numerous and deleterious effects on bats, leading to a moratorium on bat banding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a resolution to cease banding by the American Society of Mammalogists in 1973. One of the main points of the memorandum written to justify the moratorium was to conduct a "detailed evaluation of the files of the bat-banding program." However, a critical and detailed evaluation of the BBP was never completed. In an effort to satisfy this need, I compiled a detailed history of the BBP by examining the files and conducting a literature review on bat banding activities during the program. I also provided a case study in managing data and applying current mark-recapture theory to estimate survival using the information from a series of bat bands issued to Clyde M. Senger during the BBP. The majority of bands applied by Senger were to Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii), a species of special concern for many states within its geographic range. I developed a database management system for the bat banding records and then analyzed and modeled survival of hibernating Townsend's big-eared bats at three main locations in Washington State using Cormack-Jolly-Seber (CJS) open models and the modeling capabilities of Program MARK. This analysis of a select dataset in the BBP files provided relatively precise estimates of survival for wintering Townsend's big-eared bats. However, this dataset is unique due to its well-maintained and complete state and because there were high recapture rates over the course of banding; it is doubtful that other unpublished datasets of the same quality exist buried in the BBP files for further analyses. Lastly, I make several recommendations based on the findings of this summary and analysis, the most important of which is that marking bats with standard metal or split-ring forearm bands should not be considered for mark-recapture studies unless the information sought and the potential for obtaining unbiased estimates from that information vastly outweighs the potential negative effects to the bats.

First posted January 6, 2009

For additional information contact:

Center Director,
USGS Fort Collins Science Center
2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. C
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118

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Suggested citation:

Ellison, L.E., 2008, Summary and Analysis of the U.S. Government Bat Banding Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1363, 117 p.


Executive Summary

Part 1. History and Overview of the Bat Banding Program

Part 2. Discussion of Mark-Recapture Techniques and Utility of the Existing Bat Banding Program Data

Part 3. Data-Management Case Study and Retrospective Survival Analysis of Townsend’s Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) from Washington State

Part 4. Summary of Problems, Recommendations, and Conclusions

References Cited


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