Studying Bats on Colorado's Western Slope
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is studying bats on Colorado’s Western Slope. The goal is to locate the bat’s hibernaculum -- the place where bats spend winter hibernation. Our biologists capture the bats using a fine mesh called a “mist net.” Once captured, bats are weighed and aged (adult vs juvenile).
Age is determined by looking at the finger joints to see if they are fully formed. Good candidates are fitted with a tiny radio transmitter (¼ the weight of a dime). The transmitter is attached using medical-grade glue that does not harm the bat. Once the glue has dried and the transmitter is secure, the bat is released. Biologists use a radio receiver and antenna to track the bat's movement.
The radio signals will hopefully lead researchers back to winter roosting sites. Unlike bats that hibernate in caves in eastern North America, most bats in Colorado hibernate in rock crevices found in cliffs, rocky outcroppings, or talus slopes. Biologists hope to learn if these crevice-dwelling bats are affected by white-nose syndrome (WNS) -- a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats across North America. Bats provide a huge benefit to our ag community by removing metric tons of insects each year. Projects like this will help to assess the vulnerability of Colorado’s bat populations to white-nose syndrome.
Read more about white-nose syndrome in bats.
Ways to Participate in National Bat Week
Each year, National Bat Week is celebrated in the last week of October. Here are some ideas on how you can participate:
Go to Bat for Bats! – Bat Week encourages actions big and small that can help improve the environment for bats. Take action and participate in activities that assist in bat conservation.
Learn how important bat boxes are by watching the Bat Boxes 101 video below.
Join Bats Conservation International's Facebook page and become part of the bat community.
Participate in a distance learning adventure: BatsLIVE – An online, one-stop resource for learning about bats and gaining skills to help others become bat champions. You will find lesson plans, exciting recorded webcasts and webinars, links to great bat partners, and multimedia tools that are all focused on bats!
Watch the “Battle for Bats” Film. This cornerstone of the White-nose Syndrome (WNS) communication effort focuses on bats as important and fascinating animals, the reality that we are rapidly losing millions of our bats to WNS, information on how state and federal agencies and non-profits are working together to fight this devastating disease, and the important role that the public can play in bat conservation.
There are 18 species of bats known to live in Colorado; some are here year-round, and some only migrate through the state. Though commonly misunderstood, bats actually play a valuable role in ecosystems across Colorado.
Bats can be found in every habitat in the state, from the eastern plains to the high mountain forests and western deserts, from rural towns to downtown Denver. Not only do they pollinate plants and crops, but all of our bats also eat insects and help control our insect populations. The Little brown bat has been known to catch and eat more than 150 mosquitoes and crop pests in less than 15 minutes!
CPW continually monitors bat populations as part of a nationwide effort to detect changes from threats including White-nose syndrome and wind energy development. Learn more about these fascinating mammals and how you can help with bat conservation.
Report Bat Sightings to CPW
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking the public to report the sighting of any active or dead bats. A special phone line 303-291-7771 and an email address are available to report these sightings. CPW would also like to know of any sites, especially in eastern Colorado, that have hibernating bats so biologists can include them in the monitoring effort.
The public is asked to not disturb hibernating bats and to respect cave closures.
All the bat species found in Colorado are insect eaters, in some cases eating thousands of insects a night. This diet of night flying insects makes bats important for the control of agricultural and human pests. Bats are also important to the cave environments they roost in, bringing energy into these mostly closed systems in the form of their guano.
White Nose Syndrome
“Bats are an important yet under-appreciated part of our world,” said CPW Species Conservation Coordinator, Tina Jackson. “This threat is something we all should be worried about.”
WNS, which is caused by a fungus known as Pseudogymnoascus destructans, is responsible for large scale bat die-offs in the Eastern United States, in some cases killing 100% of the bats in a site. WNS is named for the white powder seen on the nose, ears, and wings of infected bats.
WNS has not been found in Colorado, however since first documented in a New York cave in 2007, WNS has spread to 26 states and 5 Canadian provinces. Some signs of WNS in bat populations are:
Bats moving to the openings of the hibernation site during the winter
Bats leaving hibernation sites in the winter, especially on cold days
Bats with a white powder on their nose, ears or wings
Read more about white-nose syndrome in bats: