Around the shores of Grand Lake: The Gray Bat

Power for Progress…
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority

Its scientific name is “myotis grisescens” but to most of us, it goes by the title “Gray Bat.”

Once upon a time, it was strong in numbers, inhabiting caves all across the southeastern United States. However, disturbance by mankind led to a population decline beginning roughly 30 years ago (it was placed on the Endangered Species list in 1976) and the population continued to shrink rapidly. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the population was estimated at 1.6 million in the early 1980s, but was down to 1.5 million with the next decade.

What does any of that have to do with the Grand River Dam Authority? Well, in the early 1990s, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued GRDA a new 30-year license to operate Pensacola Dam, one of the license requirements involved the gray bat. Typically, Gray Bats will hibernate in large colonies, in caves, during the winter. In the summer though, females will gather in smaller colonies to give birth. While there are no known hibernating caves in Oklahoma, two of these smaller maternity caves happen to be in the Grand Lake area.

Under the terms of the license, GRDA was required to improve security and protection at these caves. Working with the The Nature Conservancy (TNC), GRDA upgraded fencing, gates, and signage to help keep mankind out, so that “myotis grisescens” would feel comfortable enough to come on in. GRDA even produced and distributed an educational video in the early 1990s, to help inform the public of the Gray Bat’s plight and need for protection in Northeast Oklahoma.

Nearly two decades later, GRDA’s association and interest in protecting the Gray Bat goes on. Today, the GRDA Ecosystems Management Department still helps monitor the Gray Bat caves to insure they offer a safe, secure habitat for the bats.

While the Gray Bat continues to be listed among the nation’s endangered species, organizations like the The Nature Conservancy, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and others are trying to determine if the population has rebounded enough to be removed from that list; an event that is nearly unheard of, according to the scientific community. However, even the fact that such a move is being considered means that the efforts of many people all across the country are paying off.

The Grand River Dam Authority is proud of the role it has played in that effort over the last 20-plus years.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Directly or indirectly, GRDA’s low-cost, reliable; electricity serves nearly 500,000 homes in Oklahoma and stretches into 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75 years.

                – Justin Alberty
GRDA Corporate Communications Director

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Gray Bat Facts