United States

United States

Positive start to mitigating bat kills

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An international gathering of highly respected bat scientists met in Florida last month to discuss the on-going problem of bat deaths at wind power stations. The meeting was organised by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and by Bat Conservation International (BCI), a non-profit organisation based in Austin, Texas. It was hosted by FPL Energy, the country's largest aggregator of wind energy and owner of the Mountaineer wind farm in West Virginia, the scene of several hundred bat deaths.

BCI is headed by Merlin Tuttle, an indefatigable advocate for bat conservation. Tuttle hopes to organise a partnership that would include his own organisation, the American Wind Energy Association, and several federal agencies.

Last year, at several turbine sites, scientists found an unexpectedly large number of bat carcasses. The deaths apparently occurred during migratory periods, which has led some to believe that they may be interacting with the wind turbines during migration (Windpower Monthly, October 2003).

No one knows the extent of the problem of bat kills in wind farms as the issue has yet to be scientifically studied in any depth. Scientists at the Florida meeting hoped to begin the long and possibly costly process of determining which species may be involved, why these animals are being killed, and how extensive the problem may be, particularly at other wind turbine sites which have not been examined.

Learning about bat kills at wind turbine sites could turn out to be very complex. Site monitors could easily miss dead bats. Some bats weigh less than an ounce and could be tossed over a great area after being killed by turbine blades, or could easily be carried off immediately after death by common predators.

Among the experts at the meeting were Tom Kunz of Boston University, an expert in bat biology; Gareth Jones from the University of Bristol, an expert in bat echolocation; Robert Barclay from the University of Calgary, an expert in bat behaviour in the wild; Bill Evans, an expert on bird deaths at communication towers; Ed Arnett, recently of Oregon State University and now co-ordinator for the bats and wind power generation project for Bat Conservation International; and Jeff Gore of the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network, a cross-discipline organisation founded in 1995 to preserve dwindling bat species.

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