“Bats have received a bad rap and we’re in danger of losing these valuable creatures.” This is a quote from local wildlife biologist Larry Cordova of the Smokey Bear Ranger District. Larry has worked with bats for many years and is the Bat Coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service Southwestern Region.
Bats have the reputation of being evil and blood-sucking. However, this is a myth. Bats play an essential role in our landscapes by consuming insects, pollinating plants and spreading seeds. “One bat can eat up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour and can feed from four to six hours per night,” says Larry Cordova. In fact, bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects. Many of these insects are serious pest to our forests and crops and, can spread disease. “Bats improve our lives in many ways,” says Cordova, who spreads a positive message about bats.
White-nose syndrome or (WNS) is a fungus that kills bats. This disease is named for a white fungus that appears on the ears, nose, tail and wings of affected bats with a mortality rate of 100%. Sadly, WNS has spread rapidly since it was first discovered in New York in 2006. The fungus was identified in Europe and has migrated to the United States. As of 2017, bats with White-nose syndrome have been discovered in more than half of the contiguous United States. Most recently, WNS was confirmed in caves in Texas and Nebraska. So, even though there have been no cases of White-nose syndrome discovered in New Mexico, researchers expect the disease to continue to spread. Our bats are in danger.
Forty three species of bats are found in the United States, of which 28 species are found in New Mexico. Our Lincoln National Forest has 14 known species of bats. Of the nine species of bats afflicted by White-nose syndrome in other states, 3 are found in New Mexico. “We have lots of different habitats in New Mexico that bats love,” says Cordova. Home for bats include mines and caves, but they are also attracted to areas under bridges, attics, eaves, barns, abandoned buildings, rocky areas, and even trees. All they need is a small crevice to roost in.
“Bats are fascinating creatures,” explains Cordova, “they are the only mammals that can truly fly!” Bats can fly up to 15 mph (on average). Another interesting fact is that even though the majority of bats are social creatures, some bats really like to be alone. Bats typically have only one pup per year on average.
“Bats fall under two suborders,” says Cordova. “The Micro-Chiroptera which is the smaller bats like the ones we have here in the Americas. Then, there is the Macro-Chiroptera sub-order of bats, which are the largest…