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Hawaiian hoary bats confirmed on Kahoolawe

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    The opeapea, or Hawaiian Hoary Bat, is a small bat that feeds mainly on insects. Wildlife officials confirmed the presence of the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat on the island of Kahoolawe.

WAILUKU >> After years of speculation, wildlife officials have confirmed the presence of an endangered bat subspecies on Kahoolawe Island, located about 7 miles southwest of Maui.

The Maui News reports the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission used eight detectors across the island to confirm the presence of the Hawaiian hoary bat on the remote island. Natural Resource Specialist James Bruch said Wednesday that the bat may be the only native land mammal visiting and possibly living on the island, which was formerly a Navy target.

The detectors picked up the first bat in June 2016. It detected a bat again in August and again in September and October, before dropping in December and January. There were no detections again until April, the report said.

Before this, Bruch said Hawaiian hoary bat sightings were reported, but could not be confirmed.

“Every once in a while either a worker or volunteer would say, ‘Oh, I think I saw a bat,’ but no one could verify it,” Bruch said. “We’ve put out a detector one or two nights out of the year and nothing was ever picked up.”

The bat is small in size and dark in color, making it difficult to spot. The bat has been seen on Maui, Hawaii, Molokai and Oahu but is suspected to live only on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s website.

The data suggests that the bats travel Kahoolawe and then return to their homes by nightfall, Bruch said. He thinks it might be possible that a small population has taken residence and that the bats may be using the island for breeding.

The commission is continuing to review the bat data and is hoping to acquire funding for more research.

“It’s amazing how little we know about the species,” Bruch said. “They’re cryptic. They’re harder to detect, but the technology is much better and the prices are coming down to where it’s more reasonable to do studies like this.”

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