The size and distribution of measurement errors associated with major techniques for estimating numbers of hibernating bats are unstudied, although this is the principle method of enumerating several endangered bat species. However, decisions concerning the listing status of a species under the Endangered Species Act require consistent and accurate estimation of population size and trends. Recent advances in digital photography have improved the ability to produce a quantitative record of the numbers of bats in hibernacula. We surveyed clusters of Indiana bats in a hibernaculum and compared results from counts of digital photographs of clusters to results from 4 variations of visual estimation. We counted bats in photographs using Geographic Information System digitization over the photograph. Total counts from 2 sets of photographs varied by <1.5%. Nonphotographic estimation techniques varied from 76% to 142% of counts from photographs for clusters for which estimation (rather than counting) was used. Where feasible, photography can improve status and trend information for species of concern, permitting more timely and specific management actions.
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Vol. 74 • No. 1