Spreading appreciation for bats

BCI educator Dianne Odegard shows visitor a Mexican free-tailed bat. Credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer
I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

“How do I get bats out of my attic?”

“Why don’t we see bats in our bat box?” “How can I attract bats to my house?”

“WHERE DID ALL OF THE BATS GO?”

These are just a few of the common questions visitors at The Great New York State Fair asked biologists at our booth. More than 4,000 visitors stopped by to learn about one of the states’ most misunderstood mammals: bats.

New York Field Office biologists heard it all, from stories about bat rescues to chaotic bat release attempts—and even a few fond bat memories.

Visitors learn about bats in a hibernaculum. Credit: Bethany Holbrook

Visitors learn about bats in a hibernaculum. Credit: Bethany Holbrook

Reflecting on all of the stories I heard and the advice I gave, I realized that while bats are certainly important ecologically in New York, they are also important to thousands of New Yorkers who are bewildered by this mysterious species.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the fair this year, you can read here the answers to our most common questions about bats. Hopefully you’ll increase your understanding of this amazing mammal (without the $10 fair admission fee).

    1. How do I get bats out of my attic? The first step is to identify where they are coming in from. Surround your house at dusk and identify the exiting bats. Next, build a bat exclusion (here are instructions, as well as help for getting a bat out of your house). This allows bats to get out, but not back in. Leave the exclusion in for at least seven days to ensure all bats have escaped before you remove the exclusion and seal the hole. You need to wait to conduct exclusions until baby bats, or pups, are able to fly (usually after summer). Otherwise, you risk trapping the pups inside, separating them from their mothers, and they will die of starvation.
    2. Why don’t we see bats in our bat box? Bats are finicky about their bat boxes. Complete this checklist to see if you installed your bat box properly, and remember that it can take bats 1-5 years to move into a bat box.
      – Box is placed at least 15-20 feet off the ground.
      – Box is placed in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight every day.
      – Box is placed on the side of a building or a wooden/steel pole. Bat boxes hung in trees do not get as much use.
      – Box is not placed in close proximity to a light.
      – Box has been checked for wasp nests. Using a 3/4 chamber will help deter wasps from your bat box.
      – Box is at least 20 feet from any overhanging tree branches.
      Follow these instructions for the bat house and pole.
    3. How can I attract bats? There is no way to attract bats other than providing proper roosting conditions. Bats prefer areas within a quarter mile of water, or any area where insects are plentiful. Providing bats with a roosting site, like a bat box, is also helpful, but not guaranteed. See these tips for attracting bats to your bat house.
    4. Where did all of the bats go? You might live near an area that has been affected by white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection that has killed an estimated 5.7 million bats in North America since it was discovered in 2007. The fungus can be seen on the wings and muzzles of affected bats. We’re working with partners to learn more about the fungus, but it is believed that affected bats are disrupted during hibernation, causing them to quickly expend stored fat reserves.
    5. What are we doing to protect bats from white-nose syndrome? The Service works with other federal and state agencies to investigate the source, cause and spread of WNS in New York and beyond. Biologists monitor the spread of WNS by conducting winter cave surveys that document and track affected sites. Research is being done to better understand the fungus, and biologists are reaching out to the public to spread the word about WNS. As biologists gain a better understanding of this strange fungus, we can begin to better manage the impacts of the disease. You can help by making sure you abide by all cave closures and advisories and follow decontamination guidelines before and after you enter a cave or mine.
Rob Mies (Organization for Bat Conservation) and Ann Froschauer (USFWS) talk about bat houses on the BatsLIVE! Distance Learning Adventure. Credit: USFS/Sandy Frost

Here’s what a bat house looks like. Rob Mies (Organization for Bat Conservation) and Ann Froschauer (USFWS) talk about bat houses on the BatsLIVE! Distance Learning Adventure. Credit: USFS/Sandy Frost

Read other blog posts about bats.

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