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Wildlife Lookout

Wildlife Lookout: Louisiana Bats

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by Chelsea Cochrane

Northern yellow bat

A common sight at dusk, bats are the only mammal capable of true flight. Their order, Chiroptera, is the second largest order of mammals after rodents, comprising about 20% of all classified mammal species worldwide. There are over 1,400 species of bats in the world – 45 are native to the United States, 11 can be spotted in Louisiana. These were originally divided into two suborders, the megabats and the microbats. Recently further knowledge of these unique mammals gave way to new classifications, dividing the order into the Yinpterochiroptera and Yangochiroptera suborders. The creation of these new subdivisions is largely based on molecular genetics data, unlike the old classifications which were more related to the bat’s eating or behavioral habits.

some species of bats hibernate for the winter

Despite what is presented in popular vampire culture most bats eat insects or fruit. In fact the largest bat species affectionately called “flying foxes” are harmless fruit bats (if you’re not a fruit farmer) including the impressive giant golden-crowned flying fox, Acerodon jubatus, which can have a wingspan of over 5 feet. We won’t see any of those here though – they prefer the tropics and subtropics of Asia. All bats found in the southeast United States are insectivorous, nocturnal, and locate food primarily by echolocation. Of over 1,400 species of bats, only three species feed solely on blood. These ‘vampire bats’ are found in Central and South America and rarely make their way into the US. Really.

Many tourist visit Carlsbad Caverns to see the massive colonies of Mexican free-tail bats

Insectivorous bats are generally deemed a good thing, as long as they are not nesting in your attic. These heavy feeders eat many pest insects, like crop-eating beetles, moths, and mosquitoes, reducing the need for pesticides. Their waste, called guano, is mined and used as a popular fertilizer. Some species nest in huge colonies whose nightly flight can be a popular tourist attraction. Unfortunately some bats make great hosts for many pathogens like rabies, and it is advised to never interact with bats, and to take special precautions if an interaction occurs.

Bats have long been admired for their precise and maneuverable flight. Their wings have hand-like digits that connect to a pivotal “wrist”, covered with a tight thin membrane of skin called patagium. The order name Chiroptera means “hand-wing”. This gives them an advantage in agility over birds. Many also use echolocation – emitting an ultrasonic frequency to determine the exact location of an object by its reverberations. The bat’s highly developed ears can pick up the fluttering of a moth’s wings, and even the movement of underground insects!

Bats in Louisiana

There are 11 documented species of bats that can be found in Louisiana. Here is a list with short descriptions.

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In the vesper bat family Vespertilionidae, the big brown bat occurs widely throughout the US, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean into South America. It’s large for a microbat, with a wingspan of up to 15 inches. Commonly seen just at dusk, the big brown bat can adapt to many environments, including urban settings.

Mexican free-tailed batTadarida brasiliensis
The Mexican free-tailed bat or Brazilian free-tailed bat of the family Molossidae is widely regarded as one of the most abundant mammals in North America. Nevertheless their natural habit of roosting in enormous numbers can cause massive fluctuations in populations due to habitat destruction and disease. The free-tailed bat holds the record for fastest documented flight speed of any animal, with a top ground speed of over 100 MPH.

Tricolored batPerimyotis subflavus
The tricolored bat is a member of the vesper family native to eastern North America. It was formerly called an eastern pipistrelle based on its resemblance to the European Pipistrellus species, however further genetic studies revealed it is more closely related to the canyon bat and those of the vesper family. The name is derived from three distinctive bands of color on its back. Once common in this area, the tricolored bat has suffered significant decline since 2006 due to a fungal disease. The tricolored bat along with the silver-haired bat are the two bats most associated with carrying rabies.

Eastern red batLasiurus borealis
Another member of the vesper family, the eastern red bat is considered among the most common in Louisiana, and is widespread throughout most of eastern North America. Its entire body is very furry, males are a rusty brick red, females have more gray dusting. Both have distinctive white patches on their shoulders.

Evening batNycticeius humeralis
Another quite common in our area, the evening bat is also in the vesper family, native to North America with a relatively small range over the southeast region. These small bats hunt strictly at night. They have short lifespans for bats but are heavy breeders – females will form “maternity colonies” consisting of 15 to 300 bats. 90 percent of births are twins, some singles and some triplets. They are known to be good pest-eaters.

Hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus
Also in the vesper family, the hoary bat can be found throughout most of North & South America, with some disjunct populations in the Galápagos Islands and Hawaii. It has a 15 inch wingspan and a thick coat of dark fur with white tips, giving it a gray-ish white frosted or ‘hoary’ appearance. The hoary bat is mainly solitary, though it will occasionally nest with other bats in a cave.

Northern Yellow BatLasiurus intermedius
The northern yellow bat has a very specific region bordering the Gulf of Mexico through the US and into Central America. It tends to inhabit wooded areas near a permanent water source with Spanish moss or palm trees. This species of vesper bat uses Spanish moss exclusively for nesting. Its coat can vary from yellow-orange to gray-brown.

Rafinesque’s big-eared batCorynorhinus rafinesquii
Sometimes called the southeastern big-eared bat, this species has big ears. Over an inch long, which is quite big for a bat averaging 3 – 3.9 inches long. They are vesper bats in the genus Corynorhinus, meaning “club-nosed”. These are not the most attractive bats, and they are fairly uncommon throughout their range. Similar to the Townsend’s big-eared bat.

Seminole batLasiurus seminolus
The seminole bat is another vesper with a relatively small distribution, found exclusively in the southeastern US. It is often confused for the red bat because of its similar coat. This bat feeds on a relatively large amount of ants, bees and wasps, as well as beetles, moths, flies and some cicadas. They also use Spanish moss for their nesting.

(c) adamdv18, some rights reserved
(CC BY-NC)

Silver-haired batLasionycteris noctivagans
A solitary, migratory species of the vesper family, the silver-haired bat is the only member of its genus. Its range consists of much of North America, wintering in the south just into Mexico and summering all the way up to Alaska. We are actually on the very edge of its range here in St. Tammany. This bat has dense black fur with white tips, giving it the frosted appearance for which its named. The scientific name translates to “night-wandering”, an ode to these creatures’ nocturnal habits.

Southeastern myotis batMyotis austroriparius
Another bat with a very specific range, centered closely around the Gulf. These small bats vary from gray to bright orange-brown, weighing 5 – 8 grams. This species nests and hunts around open water and can be found in thick hardwood forests. It sometimes roosts with the Rafinesque’s big-eared bat. This myotis stands out among its genus as a heavy breeder, often producing twins. During nesting season the southeastern myotis is an important food source for barred owls.

Local News

City of Covington Has New, Easier-to-Use Website

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screenshot from covla.com

The City of Covington announces their recently updated website, www.covla.com, is fully operational and user-friendly. The website has information on City Council, departments, things to do, Covington history, and as always a link to pay your water bill online. You can also sign up for Mayor Mark’s email updates – full of useful info and fun historical tidbits.

screenshot from covla.com

Not only is the new website easy to navigate, it has tons of beautiful photos of our Covington area. Great job guys!

Local News

New Leadership Brings New Vision at The St. Tammany Parish Department of Animal Services

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From St. Tammany Parish Government:

Beth Brewster, new Director of Animal Services

During the first month of her tenure at the St. Tammany Parish Animal Shelter, Beth Brewster has implemented change, laid out her vision, and built upon initiatives that were already in place when she assumed her role.

“Beth is a natural fit for our shelter. She has a deep appreciation for our dedicated employees, she is hands-on, and she brings a fresh perspective to this department,” St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper said. “From increased play and exercise for animals, to changes in hours of operations, to continued partnerships with credible rescue groups and animal welfare non-profits, Beth has created a palpable atmosphere of renewed energy and positivity.”

“We could not have achieved these results without a great team of employees, Dr. Sandy Robbins’ dedication to our animals, and the help of our tremendous partners Wings of Rescue, Big Sky Ranch, and Denise Gutnisky of Mardi Paws,” Brewster said. “I am looking forward to what is yet to come.”

72 adoptions were finalized during the month-long, fee-waived, “Adopt and Donate,” 2020 Clear the Shelters event in August. Shelter partner Mardi Paws lent a paw to this event by giving away a free backpack of Summer Lovin’ swag to everyone who adopted a cat or dog from the shelter during the event. In addition, over 200 animals have been transported through the Wings of Rescue flights in 2020.

As the shelter population decreases through adoptions, fosters, and transports, Brewster has begun the implementation of an enrichment program designed to increase play, socialize dogs in groups as well as individually, increase walking of dogs on leashes, and implement positive reinforcement training methods with treats. Additional pens are currently under construction to provide added exercise resources. The shelter has purchased toys for the kittens, added scratching posts to the adoption room, and purchased feral cat dens for the isolation room.

Future initiatives set to launch include: broadening the volunteer base; expanding the foundation of credible, compassionate rescue programs already in place; purchasing new beds for all shelter animals; educating and more greatly utilizing fosters; and the acquisition of new caging for the isolation room to increase prevention of the transfer of disease.

As part of the continued partnership with Mardi Paws, the Let the Fur Fly fundraising initiative was recently announced and is underway. This effort is a partnership with Wings of Rescue and sponsors, and thus far has secured $25,000 in funding for a late – September flight for the St. Tammany Parish Department of Animal Services, and other high-intake shelters in neighboring parishes out of Top Gun Aviation at the Hammond Regional Airport. Their goal is to fund a second flight during the month of October, as well as secure funding for the purchase of much-needed items for the shelter. Anyone wishing to become a sponsor, or donate may view the link here.

St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper wishes to thank Mardi Paws non-profits for their continued partnership and support, Wings of Rescue, and the top Fur Fly sponsors: Tito’s Handmade Vodka for Dog People, Baldwin Subaru, and The Meraux Foundation; as well as all of the sponsors who helped to fund the upcoming Wings of Rescue transport flight. See the entire list of sponsors here.

President Cooper also wishes to thank St. Tammany Parish citizens for their continued support of the Animal Shelter through fostering, volunteering, and adopting to continue to reduce the shelter population.

Animal Services is open for adoptions from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Learn more at www.stpgov.org/pets. To purchase a bed for donation to the St. Tammany Parish Animal Shelter, click here.

Local News

Innovative Floodgate Design Installed in St. Tammany – First of its Kind in the State in a Residential Area

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St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper announced today, the completion of the installation of a FloodBreak Automatic Floodgate Mitigation System — in the Fox Hollow subdivision in the Slidell area. This gate is the first of its kind in the State of Louisiana installed in a residential neighborhood. With the installation of this gate, the gap in the levee system will now be closed during a flood event. This system requires no man power to operate, and is automatically activated by flood waters which cause the gate to rise and protect the area where the gate is installed. As the flood waters recede, the gate recedes as well. No man power is required to operate the system. When not activated, the gate lies underground, flush with the roadway, and residents simply drive over it. It is touted as a “passive, automatic flood barrier system that provides permanent and virtually invisible flood protection without human intervention or power.”

“This completion of this project will give the residents of Fox Hollow additional flood protection with the most innovative technology available, as well as additional peace of mind,” said Mike Cooper, St. Tammany Parish President. “We appreciate the help of all who advocated for this project — Councilman T.J. Smith and members of Drainage District #4. The protection of life and property during a weather event is our goal with every flood mitigation measure we put into place.”

“Water knows no boundaries and because of that we have found it necessary to protect the 1500-plus residents to help prevent them from flooding,” said T.J. Smith, St. Tammany Parish Councilman, District 14. “With the leadership of Drainage District #4, we have been able to provide an additional resource that supplements the additional five miles of levees and the pumps for this district.”

Warner Trucking is the contractor for this project, and Mike Riviere of Infinity Engineering is the engineer. The cost of the project is $369,797.00.

Visit www.stpgov.org

CPD Updates Local News

CPD Update: City Court in Session Monday, Special Procedures

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From the Covington Police Department:

The Covington Police Department would like to inform the citizens of Covington that our City Court will be in session on Monday, August 24, 2020, at 3:00 PM. Also, due to COVID-19, the following procedures will be followed:

  • All persons present must wear a mask in the courtroom.
  • All persons entering the building will be required to answer the standardized COVID-19 screening questions and have their temperature checked. If anyone presents with a fever or answers yes to COVID-19 questions, they will immediately be reserved with a new court date and released before entering the courtroom.
  • Maximum occupancy in the courtroom will be 34 defendants to be called in alphabetically order for each docket.
  • All others will remain outside until their name is called to go before the Judge.
  • All Officers that are subpoenaed for trial will wait in the meeting room of the Council Chambers until needed to testify.
  • We will have someone outside to collect ticket payments if they would rather pay citations than appear in court.

This court session only applies to people who were issued a court date of August 24, 2020.

Local News

STP President Mike Cooper Welcomes New Leadership at Parish Animal Shelter

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Beth Brewster, new Director of Animal Services

St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper announced the appointment of Beth Brewster as the new Director of Animal Services. Brewster, who has roots in St. Tammany, earned a bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness from LSU and brings to the shelter nearly 15 years of animal welfare experience. She has successfully worked with animal welfare organizations at the local, state and national levels, and she was instrumental in leading the fundraising, design and completion of the Companion Animal Alliance Shelter on the outskirts of LSU— the first animal shelter in the country built on a college campus.

“Beth comes to us with a wealth of experience, many long-standing relationships in the animal welfare community, and a passion for bringing people and pets together,” said Cooper. “I look forward to her leadership at our shelter as she joins our committed staff.”

Brewster says she looks forward to using her people and pets-oriented approach to bring the live release rate up, to increase transparency at the shelter, and to work together with the community, to improve the lives of dogs and cats in St. Tammany Parish. She says her focus will be on people as well as animals, and she will remain committed to doing everything possible to save the lives of the animals dependent on the shelter and to help families care for their pets.

President Cooper has maintained focused collaboration with veterinarians and independent, reputable, external animal welfare groups since taking office. Among his enhancements to the shelter since taking office are: the reinstatement of the positions of kennel manager and veterinary technician. He has also expanded external features at the shelter to increase square-footage of living and play areas for shelter pets. The shelter recently announced a new partnership with the Mardi Paws organization to host several initiatives to increase adoptions, expand education, and raise awareness about the shelter.

Brewster will assume her role at the Shelter beginning Monday, August 17, 2020.

Local News

Christ Episcopal School Student Achieves Top ACT Score

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Congratulations Ben Sterling!

Christ Episcopal School student Ben Sterling

From Christ Episcopal School: Christ Episcopal School senior Ben Sterling has earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36.

Fewer than half of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1–36. A student’s composite score is the average of the four test scores. The score for ACT’s optional writing test is reported separately and is not included within the ACT composite score.

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement exam that measures what students have learned in school. ACT scores are accepted by all major four-year colleges and universities across the U.S.

Founded in 1984, Christ Episcopal School is a co-educational, Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school of 650 students. The campus is located in Covington, Louisiana, and encompasses 45 acres in an Arcadian setting, offering a pleasant and stimulating learning environment for its students and faculty. Christ Episcopal School continues in the tradition of independent schools and that of Christ Episcopal Church, which since its founding in 1846 has maintained a commitment to the educational and civic life of St. Tammany Parish.

Learn more at christepiscopalschool.org

Local Events Local News

Luther Kent This Thursday – Rockin’ the Rails October 2012

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Luther Kent

Luther Kent at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Luther Kent is a New Orleans blues singer known for his big soulful voice and his big horn-based group Luther Kent & Trick Bag that mixed swinging blues with New Orleans R&B. Kent was actually born Kent Rowell, and began his professional singing career at the age of 14.