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A New Home for Bats

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June 5, 2000 -- With wild lands shrinking and humans covering more and more of the land, conservationists no longer can mark off large areas of wilderness to preserve wildlife. As romantic as the notion of unsullied wilderness is, there's not enough of it to maintain America's increasingly endangered flora and fauna. Biologists must intervene by reintroducing species to former ranges, breeding them for genetic variety, and even creating new habitat where before there was none.

In a unique coincidence, biologists have stumbled on an engineered solution to the problem of the vanishing habitat for bats. Many of North America's 44 species are in grave trouble. Caves where they hibernate are crowded with tourists and cavers. But on the northern tip of Michigan, what was once America's biggest collection of underground copper mines has become a refuge for the area's bats.

Bat Conservation International and the USDA/Natural resources Conservation Service have joined with cavers and mining historians to preserve these mines for bats. Long abandoned, the hazardous mines often are sealed up, killing millions of bats and eliminating places for hibernation. But local people have helped BCI design special gates for the mines that keep people out while allowing bats to come and go.

Listen as NPR's Christopher Joyce joins a National Public Radio/National Geographic Society Radio Expedition underground into 19th-century mines. In part II, listen as Joyce helps BCI biologists survey the bat population and build bat gates, preserving habitat as well as the history of the once-booming mining industry that provided America with copper from the Civil War to World War II.

For more information about bats, contact Bat Conservation International at its Web site.

For more information about programs to conserve wildlife habitat on private lands, go to the USDA Natural resources Conservation Service Web site.

entrance to the South Lake mine Irv Riutta will soon gate this entrance to the South Lake mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to allow access for bats only

A sled with 350 pounds of equipment for the gate

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