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Learning about beneficial bats in Montana

Learn About Bats
Posted at 1:19 PM, Oct 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-04 20:21:57-04

Bats sometimes get a bad rap, and Montana WILD in Helena is doing what it can to change that, and show that these creatures of the night are also of great importance to our ecosystem who like hanging around the state just as much as we do.

“The fifteen species of bats we have here in Montana are insectivores, so here in Montana they are hugely beneficial to agriculture," Montana WILD Program Specialist Corie Bowditch told MTN. "One little brown bat can eat one-thousand mosquito-sized insects an hour, so we’re all very grateful for that.”

Their work doesn’t stop there. The more than 1,300 species of bats all over the world are important pollinators and just down-right cool animals that need our help right now.


"Bats are facing various challenges right now, habitat lost being a big one," Bowditch said. "Folks often don’t realize that they don’t just roost in caves, they roost in old dead tree snags. So leaving snags up is one thing you can do to help bats. Many folks have probably heard, white-nose syndrome, this is a disease caused by a cold-adapted fungus. It essentially attaches itself to bats, irritates them, keeps them up all winter and then they aren’t able to make it through hibernation because of that. So being aware as you move around if you are popping into any caves, it’s something that we can be spreading.”

The Bat Week website provides this overview of bats:

Bats come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny, adorable bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny to the big, beautiful flying foxes that can have a wingspan of up to six feet.

Bats are the only mammal that can truly fly (although some other mammals “glide”). A bat’s wing is actually a modified hand—similar to yours.

Contrary to popular belief, bats actually have good eyesight (similar to that of humans), but for most species, their main technique for navigating or locating prey is using echolocation (not all species echolocate!): emitting very high- pitched sounds that bounce off obstacles in their path, like trees, other bats, buildings, and food. main target—delicious insects. Not all bats that echolocate are insectivores!

Bats eat lots of different things. Although almost 70% of bat species feed primarily on insects, some bats are carnivorous, eating meat like rodents, frogs, and fish. Only three species of bats feed on animal blood, with two of these species specializing on bird blood. Many other bats eat pollen, nectar or fruit—these bats are vital for pollinating flowers and spreading seeds that grow new plants and trees.

"The kids always want to talk about vampire bats, we don’t have any here in Montana," laughed Bowditch. "They are one of these species that are in scary movies and story books a sort of get a bad rap in general. So rabies, its found that less than one percent of bats in the wild actually have rabies. Now of course, you still need to use extreme caution if you are interacting with a bat, finding one in the yard acting strangely, the chances that, that bat has rabies is higher than a bat that’s acting normally, flying around at night that you wouldn’t interact with. Then, of course, there’s sillier myths about bats, ‘blind as a bat’, bats can see just fine. It’s just that they have their amazing echolocation that helps them to navigate and forage in the evening.”


WEB EXTRA: Bat myths and misconceptions

If you have any questions or want to learn more about bats, October is the perfect time to do that, and Montana WILD is the perfect place.