Importance of Bats
Bats are important components of terrestrial ecosystems in several ways. Because bats can consume up to their body weight in insects each night, they are responsible for a large portion of the world's insect population control. This offers a benefit to farmers as agricultural pests are kept at bay. Bats also help to eradicate mosquitoes and therefore also the diseases they carry such as malaria and West Nile virus. Bats in the more tropical regions of the world feed on nectar, pollen, and fruit, thereby pollinating and dispersing seeds for several species of plants. Many of these plants produce food for humans such as bananas, avocados, figs, dates, peaches, and agave.
The best way to view bats is at dusk when they leave their roosts to feed on insects. Look closely to see them darting and diving through the air in most areas of the monument soon after sunset on warm, clear nights.
If you are exploring the caves and find a bat, take a moment to admire its special beauty. Be as quiet as possible. Talking in a low voice is better than whispering and try not to shuffle your feet. Bats are disturbed by a wide range of noises humans cannot hear.
Keep lights down. Bats are nocturnal and are accustomed to the dark. A bright light can be disturbing (no flash cameras, please!).
Leave the area as quickly as you can without causing further disturbance and report the sighting to the visitor center or a park ranger. Please note whether it was a few single bats or a colony/group.
Always respect cave closures, as they are necessary to protect bats' roost sites. You wouldn't like it if strange people entered your home while you were trying to sleep, so please don't do it to the bats.
Many bats are in danger of extinction due to destruction of critical habitat and their slow rate of reproduction. However, there are an increasing number of scientists working to protect this important mammal, and the public is increasingly aware of the positive role that bats play in an ecosystem.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) also threatens bat populations in the United States. This disease is caused by the fungus and has killed millions of bats since it began to spread through caves and mines in the eastern United States in 2005. Although humans aren't susceptible, we can potentially spread the fungus between caves, mines, and other bat roost sites. It is all of our responsibility to follow Lava Beds' screening procedures in order to prevent the spread of this devastating disease.
For more information about bats, visit the following websites...