Helping our batsSee also the article Attracting bats with night-flying insects.
Bat populations all over the world are in trouble and those in the United States are no exception. 40% of the nation's bat species are threatened or endangered. How are the bats of Washington faring?
The Washington Department of Wildlife lists nine bat species as "Species of Special Concern". The Federal government lists eight species in Washington as Candidate Category 2, meaning that listing under the Endangered Species Act is possibly appropriate, but we are lacking enough information to know.
The following species are listed by one or both: Keen's Myotis, Long-eared Myotis, Long-legged Myotis, and the Townsend's Big-eared Bat from western Washington. From the eastern part of the state the Fringed Myotis, Small-footed Myotis, Western Pipistrelle, Spotted Bat and Pallid Bat.
One of our rarest Puget Sound bats is the Townsend's Big-eared Bat. This species is very dependent on caves. Townsend's bats not only hibernate in caves, they also form their maternity colonies in them. This bat is extremely sensitive to disturbance by humans - entire established colonies have disappeared following disturbance.
In winter, all bats are threatened by disturbances. If someone enters their roost, the bats bring themselves out of hibernation in order to face the threat. This uses up valuable energy reserves. If a bat is disturbed or the winter is long, it may not have enough fat to live on until spring.
Even bats that have adapted well to human environmental change are now losing their roosts. As we make our homes more energy efficient, we are also making them more bat proof. Bats that moved in with us when the old-growth forests were cut are again finding themselves without a home.
What Can You Do?
- Do not disturb roosting bats. This is best for them and best for you.
- Provide habitat when possible. Leave hollow trees and snags standing. Put well-sealed black-painted bat houses in sunny locations at least 12 to 15 feet off the ground and ensure the entrance is free from obstructions for a 15 to 20 foot area.
- Support research by your universities, government agencies and conservation organizations
- Educate yourself so that you can educate others.
- Minimize your use of pesticides.
- Support conservation groups, especially those working to preserve our native northwest habitats and wildlife.