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Scary? No, but Oregon’s bats are in trouble

Batty for Bats
Click image to download high resolution artwork.

October 28, 2011

SALEM, Ore.—While black bats are winging their way to center stage on Halloween decorations and greeting cards, Oregon’s real bats aren’t doing so well: disease and habitat loss are threatening their survival. In fact, eight of Oregon’s 15 bats species are identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as in need of help.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists say that there are a number of things people can do to help the state’s only winged mammal—from building bat houses to watching bats to learning about them to protecting their habitats to keeping them safe in winter.

“The most important thing people can do at this time of year is to avoid disturbing bats. They are especially vulnerable in the winter when they are hibernating,” said Andrea Hanson, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, ODFW Strategy Species Coordinator.

Oregon’s bats hibernate in caves, mines, buildings or hollow trees. If disturbed, they are forced to burn calories, reducing their chase of survival. Another significant threat to wintering bats is white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease caused by a fungus that thrives in the same cold temperature range as hibernating bats. Once infected, bats get a white fuzzy growth on their noses. The direct cause of death is still unclear, although it is believed the fungus interrupts sleep patterns and causes the hibernating bats to awaken, depleting their fat reserves and causing starvation.

“We don’t think white-nose syndrome has arrived in Oregon, but it is a real threat—it has killed more than a million bats in the northeast and is moving across the country,” said Hanson.

To help stop white-nose syndrome from spreading, biologists and land managers are asking Oregonians, especially those who work in or explore caves and mines, to avoid disturbing bats and to decontaminate clothing and gear before and after entering a cave.

Learning about bats

One way to learn about Oregon’s bats is to download a copy of Batty for Bats: Facts for Kidsfrom ODFW’s website. The fact sheet provides a description and photograph of each of Oregon’s 15 bat species and some ideas of how to help. The flyer is available in the Living with Wildlife section of the website, http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/bats.asp Educators can email odfw.info@state.or.us for copies.

Facts about Oregon’s Bats

  • Oregon’s bats eat only insects. An adult bat eats about 1,000 insects every hour!
  • Bats hang upside down because it gives them an ideal position for take-off.
  • Bats can fly 20 to 30 miles an hour and travel more than 100 miles a night.
  • A baby bat is called a pup. Young bats can fly between two and five weeks of age.
  • Bats are the only flying mammal.
  • Bats will use bat houses: build one or buy one.
  • Look for bats in spring and summer at dusk and early evening over water and around street lights as they hunt insects.
  • Be a citizen scientist: If you see multiple dead bats, call ODFW’s Wildlife Health Hotline (866) 968-2600.  Don’t pick the bats up, just report where and when you saw them.

Conservation of Oregon’s bats

Eight of Oregon’s 15 bats are identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as species in need of help. To find more information about distribution, habitat and conservation actions that will help bats, see the Summaries of Strategy Species section of the Oregon Conservation Strategy on ODFW’s website

Additional information about Living with Bats is also available on the ODFW website.

Information on white-nose syndrome can be found on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website

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Contact:

Andrea Hanson, Strategy Species Coordinator, (503) 947-6320
Meg Kenagy, ODFW Conservation Communications Coordinator, (503) 947-6021

 
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