MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Department of Natural Resources project is trying to increase the bat population in Minnesota.

About five years ago, White Nose Syndrome came to the state killing off more than 90% of the bat population in many colonies, but now a partnership between the DNR and the National Guard is giving bats a second chance.

“It’s really important that we have the correct design for bats so they don’t overheat or get too cold,” Melissa Boman, with the DNR, said.

In a Camp Ripley clearing, three wooden boxes stand tall. And each one could be the key to the future of bats.

“These are super important because the bats that congregate in bat boxes are females that are having their pups,” she said.

Boman is a mammal specialist with the DNR. She’s been conducting trial and error research at Camp Ripley all summer, using acoustics to bring bats to the area.

“By playing bat calls, we can potentially lure them in to listen to the bat calls and potentially move into the bat boxes,” Boman said.

The hope is that Minnesota homeowners will put up bat boxes of their own, something many may be reluctant to do.

A big part of what’s happening at Camp Ripley is perception, getting people to understand the important role bats play in our ecosystem.

“They eat a lot of crop pests like beetles. When it comes to the forest,  they eat a lot of pests like moths and beetles that destroy trees,” Boman said.

Homes with bat boxes have reported fewer mosquitoes. It’s the same at Camp Ripley, where the National Guard is happy to be part of a different kind of mission.

“Protect the environment. Protect the wildlife here at Camp Ripley,” Shane Haugen, with the Minnesota National Guard, said. “So that we can do our mission here which is to enable units and military personnel to connect their training and not negatively impact the environment and the wildlife that live here.

The bat boxes are about 12 to 15 feet off the ground, so they’re protected from predators.

“My hope is that these boxes can provide alternative habitat. Keep that colony in that area where maybe there is good forage for them,” Boman said.

The DNR has more information on bat boxes here.

John Lauritsen