Social media has been filled with speculation about a low-flying object sweeping across the night sky in Hannibal since late last week. Is it a drone? A plane? Why is it there? Is it a military exercise? A law enforcement sting? A gigantic bat?

Actually, it is indeed a plane, and it’s looking for bats. It’s part of a research study from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal is home to the world’s largest population of the endangered Indiana bat. Scientists are conducting a migration study, and that’s why they’ve been flying low, observing the bat's habits.

Lead wildlife biologists from USFS, Vona Kuczynska said the crew will temporarily capture the bats in a mist net and then attach miniature radio transmitters to the bats to track them with a telemetry-equipped airplane and ground vehicles.

The biologists will be setting up a mist nest or harp trap outside of a few gates at Sodalis Nature Preserve. Unlike normal nets, a harp trap doesn’t tangle bats in the webbing. To pass through obstacles, bats turn their bodies perpendicular, but in the case of a harp trap’s strings they can’t perform that delicate maneuver and maintain their angle of flight. The trap forces them to drop into a collection chamber below.

The information the scientist gather will help them find ways to protect their population. Scientists estimate about 211,000 Indiana bats hibernate at the Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal.  That's 1/3 of the world's population of this particular species.  These bats migrate in the summer, but in the fall, they come back to Hannibal and start to swarm, in preparation for their winter hibernation.  Each bat can eat up to 3,000 insects a night, filling up for their long winter slumber.

The plane has been making its rounds in Hannibal for several consecutive nights. The team is wrapping up the study today, so there shouldn’t be any more reports of UFOs.

Read More: Endangered Bats Swarming in Hannibal |


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