It's Bat Week! Each year the week leading up to Halloween is a celebration of the insectivores. During a public bat-trapping excursion in July 2022, Lewis Young, a retired forest service biologist, captured a western small-footed bat, the first visual capture of the species in Montana. Biologists had already recorded the presence of the western small-footed bat through acoustics.
Previously confirmed species in Glacier National Park since surveys began in 2011 are: little brown, long-eared, long-legged, big brown, eastern red, silver-haired, and hoary bat, and California and Yuma myotis.
Lisa Bate, Glacier's honorary "Bird Lady," led the charge on the bat research. Thousands of roosts, where bats mate and rest, have been discovered by the group of scientists.
Bats play a critical role in ecosystems in Montana, and globally. Lisa explains, "The bats in Montana are all insectivores. They provide a really important role in helping control some of the insect populations we know as pests." According to Lisa, farmers save billions of dollars in pest control each year as a result of bats. Bats also play a major role in keeping mosquito populations at bay, "Do you love to be eaten alive by mosquitos? Most people don't. Bats can eat 50 too 100 percent of their body weight in a night."
Several bat species have been threatened by white-nosed syndrome, a disease responsible for killing 6 to 7 million bats in 39 states, including Montana.
The disease has not yet made it to Glacier National Park, but Lisa and her team continue to monitor the health of bats within the park. White-nose syndrome originated in a cave in New York in 2006. "They would wake up and fly out into the snow and cold during winter. It turns out this disease invades their tissues. It affects the homeostasis, the water and chemical (electrolyte). It would make them wake up more than they normally would, so they would burn through their fat reserves, that is what was killing them," Lisa explains.
Lisa says a common misconception is that bats are one of the more common carriers of rabies. While it is possible for bats to carry rabies, it is fairly rare. Skunks and raccoons carry rabies at higher rates than bats.
The most comfortable temperatures for humans is around 70 degrees, when outdoors or exercising. For bats, that temperature is closer to 90 degrees. It is recommended to seal up your home in late fall to avoid having bats get into your home.
If you do find a bat in your home, use a small container and a piece of cardboard to capture it. Once outdoors, it is recommended you place the bat high up on a piece of bark or the side of a building as the bat typically drops before taking flight.
If you find droppings in your house, there are way to decipher whether they are a bat or a mouse. Unfortunately, this requires crushing the droppings. Given that the bats feast on insects, their droppings will generally contain wings and undigested insect parts. Thus, the droppings will break up more easily than that of mouse droppings.
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