Despite their scary image, bats are an important part of our ecosystem. Here are more bat facts from an article I wrote for the Denver Post in August 2005. ( Bat photo credit: iStock)
The Congress Avenue Bridge bats may be a top tourist attraction in Austin, Texas, where visitors watch the bats stream out from under the bridge for their nightly insect hunt, but Colorado is home to its own bat colony, too.
The Orient Mine, located in Saguache County, is the summer residence of a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats, according to Rick Adams, professor of biology at the University of Northern Colorado and founder and president of the Colorado Bat Society.
“What’s unique about this bat colony is that it’s almost all male. It’s a huge bachelor roost,” Adams said. Estimates range from 150,000 to 250,000 bats.
Each summer, hikers navigate the trail to watch the out flight. The Orient Land Trust, a nonprofit preservation organization, protects the area.
“Bats are shrouded in mystery,” Adams said. “Very little is known about them even though they’ve been studied for years. They live on the extreme edge of mammalness. They are the only true flying mammal and their heart beats 20 beats a second when they’re flying.”
Bats are the most gregarious of all mammals, too. “They are very social and are passionate parents when it comes to child care,” Adams said. “They’re different than people expect.”
There are at least 18 species of bats that live in Colorado and even though our bats aren’t pollinators, they do have voracious insect appetites. If you want to attract bats to your landscape, it’s best to have a natural habitat with trees for bats to roost in and vegetation that attracts insects.
It’s unfortunate, but many bat and human encounters happen during a stressful situation, like when a bat is caught in a house. “People are running around screaming and the bat is flying around and screaming. The bat just wants to get out,” Adams explained.
The Colorado Bat Society is a nonprofit group that promotes bat education and research. Society members developed a bat trunk for the University of Colorado Museum’s Science Outreach Program.
Teachers anywhere in the state can order the trunk (303-492-1666) and use its books, tapes and mounted bat skeleton to educate students about bats.
The group’s educational outreach efforts seem to be working, Adams said. Instead of calls for how to exterminate bats found in home attics, he now gets calls asking how to safely relocate them.