Colorado Parks and Wildlife Celebrates Bat Week

By Rebecca Ferrell

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is celebrating ‘National Bat Week’ from October 24 to 31, raising awareness about bat conservation in the state and worldwide in the week leading up to Halloween. Bat Week is an annual, international celebration of the role of bats in nature that is organized by a team of representatives across the United States and Canada from conservation organizations and government agencies.

The Orient Mine Natural Area in the San Luis Valley is a summer roosting site for 250,000-300,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats, the largest population in Colorado.

“Though many bats in Colorado are hibernating or getting ready to hibernate, Halloween is a great time to raise awareness of bat conservation,” said Tina Jackson, CPW’s species conservation coordinator. “However, we need to keep careful watch all year long for the potential impacts of things like White-Nose Syndrome or wind energy on the bat populations in the state.”

White-Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that is responsible for the loss of millions of bats in the eastern half of the continent, and this year was found as close as Texas. Bats also face threats from wind energy development and habitat loss. To keep a close eye on the health of our resident bats, Colorado is participating in the multi-year North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat). The program allows biologists to compile baseline data on the bats that live or migrate through the state. Through acoustic detectors, PIT tags and monitoring behavior in and around known roost sites, CPW can set a baseline and observe trends in bat population, range, population density and location.

Conservation of these fascinating creatures is important not only to their survival but to our environment and ecosystem as well. A healthy bat population is important for controlling insect pests. Though bats are known mosquito eaters, they also consume agricultural pests that may otherwise threaten our crops and plants.

There are 18 species of bats in Colorado, including 13 hibernating species. Hibernation typically begins in November and runs through March, depending on weather conditions. It’s important to note that bats may leave their hibernation for brief periods, but if any unusual behavior is noted, the public should contact CPW.

“Like anyone in the middle of a long period of inactivity, bats may need a quick drink of water or a chance to move stiff muscles during hibernation,” said Jackson. “This type of behavior would still occur during typical bat times, after dusk and on warmer evenings. If people notice bats out during the day, especially on cold days, or notice dead bats during the winter, we ask that they please give us a call.”

Call CPW’s Bat line at 303-291-7771 or email Wildlife.Batline@state.co.us to report a colony or any unusual bat behavior.

See our event calendar to find parks that are holding special bat-themed events this week. For ideas on celebrating Bat Week at home or at school, visit www.batweek.org for a tool kit with games, themed menu ideas and more.

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