The Bat Man

TMMWV’s Marc Crouse leads effort to introduce brown bat habitat to the open spaces surrounding the plant

March 29, 2017

A Teaching Moment -- Among TMMWV's many steps along the path to Wildlife Habitat Council certification is educational outreach, including a collaborative effort with 5th graders at nearby Hometown Elementary School.

Some 1,700 team members work at Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia (TMMWV). But, thanks to their efforts to promote biodiversity in the plant’s surrounding fields and forests, they’re far from alone.
 
Who are their neighbors?
 
Critters such as birds, deer, groundhogs, rabbits, butterflies and – if all goes according to plan – bats. Specifically brown bats.
 
Environmental Engineering Specialist Marc Crouse says that a year ago, the plant set out to secure Wildlife Habitat Council certification for the 63 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to facility.
 
Previously, they’d carved out a 1-mile walking trail loop amid grassland and trees and past silt ponds preserved when construction of the plant began in 1996.
 
To start, they planted a pollinator garden of flowers and other vegetation to provide food for birds and insects. Next, Crouse coordinated with some local Cub Scout and Girl Scout troops to build 30 small bird houses to provide additional shelter. A house specifically for purple martins, a species of North American swallow known for keeping a lid on insect populations, soon followed.


Bat Boxes -- Members of Cub Scout Pack 236 display their handiwork, two wooden bat houses that can accommodate up to 100 brown bats each.

But they didn’t stop there. Last summer, Crouse drew up a plan to incorporate three bat houses in the wildlife area. Buffalo, W. Va., Cub Scout Pack 236 volunteered to build two of the wooden abodes and Administration Specialist Ryan Neu assembled the third. Each is designed to accommodate up to 100 brown bats. Thus far, though, none of the flying mammals have moved in and settled down.
 
“That’s not unusual,” says Crouse. “It usually takes about a year before they take hold. We’re hoping we’ll see something this summer.”
 
However, the habitat is drawing in local school groups looking to learn about biodiversity firsthand. Click here to view to see how TMMWV is helping budding naturalists and monarch butterflies become better acquainted.
 
Team members are also encouraged to immerse themselves, filling out Crouse’s “Critter Card” – helping them identify different animals – as they go.


Local Resident -- In addition to this owl, TMMWV's wildlife habitat is home to birds, deer, groundhogs, butterflies and brown bats -- among other critters.

“The cards are a way to get people engaged,” he says. “It guides them to look for the many different animals that make this space their home. More than 3,000 cards have already been turned in.”
 
Oh, and along the way, TMMWV did earn certification – on the gold level. And its bat habitat project was named a finalist for a national Wildlife Habitat Council award.
 
“Biodiversity is an area of environmental focus for Toyota in North America,” says Crouse. “We’re proud to be doing our part here in West Virginia.”
 
By Dan Miller

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