The Champaign-Urbana Bat Survey

The Champaign-Urbana

Bat Survey

About the Project

The Champaign-Urbana (or “Chambana”) area is a “micro-urban community”. Despite its relatively small size compared to cities like Chicago and St. Louis, it is still densely populated, which offers a great environment to monitor urban wildlife on a small scale. We are running a project to comprehensively monitor the activity of bats found in Champaign and Urbana, IL, to understand more about the ecology of urban bats.  

We seek to determine the effect of tree cover on bat activity and diversity. Essentially, we want to know, “Do areas with more trees have more bat calls?”.

Acoustic Detector Installed on Urban Park Tree.

To answer this question, we are placing acoustic monitoring devices, called bat detectors, on trees in the parks and the streets of Chamabana. The bat detectors record the high-frequency echolocation calls bats make as they fly in their environment, and we can use these calls to identify how much time bats spend in an area and even determine what species are present. Our project will run from April to October of 2023. Once we are finished recording the calls, we will compare our activity levels to tree cover metrics derived from LiDAR data produced by the Illinois-Height Modernization Project (insert link).  

We will also be putting GPS tracking devices on big brown bats in the Champaign-Urbana area to determine where they forage, where they roost, and whether their movements are influenced by tree cover. 

Fitting a GPS Tracking Device on “Bertha” a female Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
Sean tracking “Bertha”
Sean removing a bat from a mist net
Examining a bat wing to assess age and look for white-nose damage

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are bats present in Chambana?

A: Absolutely! Our ongoing recordings have captured over 100,000 bat calls. While we can’t precisely estimate the bat population, identifying areas with higher call frequencies indicates their significance. Keep in mind that some calls may originate from the same bat(s) patrolling the vicinity due to our stationary detectors.

Q: How diverse is the bat species in the area?

A: We’re eagerly analyzing our data for a comprehensive answer, but we’re confident about at least 7 species! Predominantly, the big brown bats dominate the urban Midwest landscape, but we’ve also documented eastern red bats, silver-haired bats, evening bats, hoary bats, bats in the Myotis genus, and tri-colored bats. While some big brown bats brave the entire year here, most species are likely migratory visitors.

Q: Where do these bats call home?

A: Certain species, like big brown bats, find refuge in human-made structures such as attics and barns. Others prefer natural roosts, such as tree hollows and loose bark.

Q: I’ve spotted bats in my attic, barn, or house. What’s the best course of action?

A: If you notice a bat behaving unusually (active during the day, unable to fly, or displaying aggression), contact Champaign County Animal Control, as rabies might be a concern. Although rabies in bats is rare, exercise caution and avoid handling them unless trained and vaccinated. If bitten or if a bat is found in your room, seek immediate medical attention for a rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin treatment.

If bats inhabit your living space, consider sealing off the area from your living quarters to prevent accidental entry. If you’re comfortable with their presence, periodically remove accumulated guano. If eviction becomes necessary, follow this link for guidance, and think about setting up a bat box (read this link for crucial considerations) to minimize the impact on the bats.

If bats reside on your property and you’re interested in collaborating with us to track their movements, reach out to sean3 at

Photo credits: Johnny Baakliny