Small mammals and bats are integral components of food webs. They are a primary food source for many predators and serve ecological functions such as seed dispersal and nutrient cycling. However, they receive less attention than game species and other managed species, leading to a lack of comprehensive information on their ecology and conservation status. In Alaska, this lack of information is exacerbated by the challenges associated with accessing remote field locations and the difficulty in capturing and observing rare and elusive species. More than 80 small mammal taxa have been described in Alaska, of which more than half are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). Many of these taxa depend on tundra or alpine ecosystems, which are under increasing threat from a changing climate.
The Alaska Small Mammal Group is comprised of small mammal enthusiasts and researchers. The group holds an annual meeting during the Alaska Chapter of The Wildlife Society conference and publishes an annual newsletter. Read the 2022 newsletter to learn about exciting research being conducted in the state.
In response to the arrival of white-nose syndrome (WNS) to Washington, the Alaska Center for Conservation Science initiated a bat maternity roost monitoring program during the summers of 2016. WNS is a disease that affects small, hibernating bat species during winter, and has a 90% mortality rate for infected little brown myotis (the only bat species present in interior Alaska) colonies. It is currently present in 31 states and 5 Canadian provinces in eastern North America, has killed over 6 million bats to date. Since we do not have a good understanding of where bats in interior Alaska roost during winter, it is not possible to monitor winter hibernacula for the arrival of WNS. However, since female bats return to the same roost each summer, investigating and monitoring populations at these roost sites is the next best alternative.
During the summers of 2016 – 2018, we established a roost monitoring network with the goal of obtaining baseline population data and increasing our understanding of little brown myotis within the state. With the help of local residents, we located and surveyed 24 little brown myotis maternity roosts throughout Alaska including interior, southcentral, the Kenai Peninsula, and southeast Alaska. Our research included acoustic monitoring, capture surveys, roost temperature profiles, and radio telemetry to assess bat movements.
To read the findings and learn more about this research, please check out our 2016 report
At the end of our three-year study, the ADF&G citizen science program took over the roost monitoring program by facilitating homeowners to count their bats once every summer to help monitor populations for the arrival of WNS. To sign up to participate in this program, see the ADF&G Citizen Science webpage
In 2012, the Northern Bat Working Group was established to foster communication and collaboration among bat researchers in Alaska. The group currently has 75 members and is co-chaired by Marian Snively (ADF&G) and Jesika Reimer.