The Northern long-eared bat, a federally-listed threatened bat species, can be found spending its summertime in Scott County, according to observations made this year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Researchers have recently documented maternity roost trees in the area of Louisville and Jackson townships near Shakopee.
Bridget Henning-Randa, an endangered species consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the Minnesota River likely draws the bats to this region to raise young in the summer months.
Northern Long-Eared Bats are cave-dwellers and the females raising pups in Scott County might've traveled hundreds of miles to return to their roost trees, Henning-Randa said.
Researches believe their social behavior draws bats to the same roost trees year-after-year to raise their young in community.
June and July are particularly sensitive months for the bats, Henning-Randa said. During these months, the pups are too young to fly and rely on the mother bats to provide food.
It can be challenging to document bat population, but one thing is for sure: the northern long-eared bat is becoming harder to find.
The species is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2015.
Northern long-eared bats are particularly susceptible to white-nose syndrome; a fungal disease that's killed millions of bats across North America over the past 15 years.
A study published this year by Conservation Biology found that white-nose syndrome had wiped out over 90% of northern long-eared, little brown and tri-colored bat populations in North America in fewer than 10 years.
"These were one of the most common species of bats for a long time, and now to see it dropping it's really quite devastating," Henning-Randa said, adding wind farms, pesticides and habitat loss also threaten the species' survival.
Reducing pesticide use and promoting biodiversity can help bats survive, according to the DNR.
Henneing-Randa said leaving dead trees standing can also provide great habitat, not just for bats, but for other wildlife, too.