Presentation by Tim Patronski and Georgia Parham, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Summary by Heather Feeler, Missouri Department of Conservation
If the story of monarchs and bats were turned into a made-for-TV movie by Hollywood, it would definitely be advertised as a drama. Grab your Kleenex, folks.
Staff from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) shared the peril that both monarchs and bats are facing across the country. Habitat loss from Canada all the way down to Mexico, along with pesticide use and changing climate, has continued to decrease monarch numbers to an all-time low. USFWS is working on gathering state data to determine if the monarch species needs to be listed as endangered, but that decision is several months out. USFWS continues to work closely with states on their monarch conservation plans to improve habit, including the need to plant 1.6 billion stems of milkweed. It turns out milkweed is the big hero in this story and the greatest opportunity for a happy ending for monarchs.
For bats, the big villain in their story is wildlife disease. White-nose syndrome is spreading through bat populations across the country at a devastating pace. USFWS has a bat communications team to help states tell this important story, including why we should care if these nocturnal creatures no longer live. When pitching bat stories as communicators, the top message for bats in both conservation and public health, and the big reveal in this story, is that bats are incredibly important to the economy. Bats eat a crazy amount of bugs. They eat enough bugs to save $3 billion each year by keeping the pesky pests off agricultural crops. Bats save our local homegrown food, so we can feed our families. How cool is that!
The moral of this mini story is that bats and monarchs need us. While they also need smart wildlife biologists, they definitely need savvy communicators to share their story. They need us to make it compelling, emotional even, so people will take action and really care about the crisis facing these two species. USFWS has tools and people to help us out, so we don’t feel like solo actors on the stage. Reach out if you need messaging, online information, or even publication resources, such as monarch postcards or informational bat books.