Bats

Bats are an important, beneficial part of any local ecosystem.

  • There are over 1,200 species of bats, making the order of Chiroptera (which is derived from the Greek words for hand and wing) the second largest order of mammals after rodents. Bats comprise about twenty percent of all classified mammal species worldwide.
  • Bats consume a lot of insects, including insects that can damage crops or forests, and insects that bug humans, like mosquitoes. Some bats pollinate plants and disperse seeds, and some eat fish! Only three species of bats drink blood. Learn more about the benefits of bats.
  • Bats are found in nearly every terrestrial habitat in the world, except for the Antarctic. Most species of bats are only active at night, and sleep in caves, trees, buildings, and other roosts during the day. Some roosts, such as Bracken Cave in Texas, have over a million bats! Learn more about where bats live.
  • Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight. Other mammals, like the flying squirrel, glide rather than actually fly. Learn more about how bats fly.
  • Most bats use specialized echolocation, a kind of sonar, to locate prey and to fly through darkness without crashing into anything (including each other). Learn more about echolocation.
 
A photo of the head of a bat with yellow fur around its face and grizzled fur on the top of its head and body.
Hoary bat.

Species at Point Reyes

Thirteen species of bats have been reported at Point Reyes:

  • Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
  • Western red bat (Lasiurus blossevillii)
  • Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus)
  • Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii)
  • Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus)
  • California myotis (Myotis californicus)
  • Western long-eared bats (Myotis evotis)
  • Little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus
  • Fringed myotis Myotis thysanodes
  • Long-legged myotis (Myotis volans
  • Yuma myotis (Myotis yumanensis)
  • Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
  • Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)

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Threats to Bats

Across the U.S., bats face many different threats. Careless cave explorers, the devastating disease called white-nose syndrome, habitat loss, climate change, and wind turbines have caused large numbers of bats to die.

  • Roughly two-thirds of the forty-seven species of bats in the United States rely on subterranean habitat for some part of their life cycle. In caves, mines, basements, and even abandoned sewers, bats find shelter from predators and the elements. However, all hibernating bats are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance, as are bats that are raising their young. Thousands of bats that hibernate in caves die each winter when visits by amateur cave explorers force them to awaken and waste stored fat needed to keep them alive until spring. Many colonies of cave-dwelling bats already have been lost due to careless human disturbance. Read the National Speleological Society's A Guide to Responsible Caving to learn about best practices for exploring caves.
  • White-nose syndrome (WNS) was discovered in New York in the winter of 2006. The disease is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which attacks the bat's skin. Pseudogymnoascus destructans is believed to originate from Europe and may have been introduced to New York by way of a cave explorer who didn't decontaminate their shoes, clothing, and/or equipment after a trip to Europe. Once it was introduced to North America, scientists believe that white-nose syndrome has mostly spread by bat-to-bat contact and from bats touching areas in cold damp places where the fungus lives. Because the spores of the fungus causing white-nose syndrome can last a long time, people can also inadvertently carry the fungus from site to site on their shoes, clothing, or gear. By 2019, bats with white-nose syndrome had been confirmed in thirty-three states and seven Canadian provinces and an estimated seven million bats had died. There is evidence that Pseudogymnoascus destructans is present in five additional states, including California. The National Park Service has acted to support bat conservation and help slow the spread of the fungus that causes the disease. Since 2013, the Service has funded hundreds of projects related to WNS in parks across the US.
  • A variety of factors are actually reducing the amount of natural places for bats to live, such as habitat destruction, fragmentation, and degradation. Learn more about how habitat loss impact bats.
  • The extraction and use of fossil fuels is increasingly polluting our land, water, air, bodies, and wildlife, and accelerating the disruption of our planet's climate. Rapid, unpredictable, or unusual changes in seasonal weather patterns, like those associated with climate change, can make it difficult for bats to survive. Even within secluded caves, bats aren’t always safe from the elements. Intense storms and heavy rainfall can flood roosts, killing entire colonies of bats trapped in caves or mines. Early season snow and prolonged freezing temperatures have also killed bats by blocking cave entrances with snow drifts and ice, or causing bats to freeze to death within their roosts during hibernation. Climate scientists warn that we have until 2030 to significantly reduce our use of fossil fuels if we are to avert catastrophic climate disruption. Fortunately, we collectively have the means and the technology to quickly transition to renewable energy. But, we need to be smart about where we site renewable energy infrastructure and when we use it. Learn more about how climate change impacts bats.
  • Wind energy is a fast-growing source of clean, renewable energy. However, wind farms that are poorly sited and wind turbines that are operated during low-wind conditions have been shown to be fatal to bats, particularly three species of migratory bats. While this raises concerns about the expansion of wind energy infrastructure, the negative impacts to bats, birds, and other wildlife (as well as scenery, human health, and the environment in general) are much greater from fossil fuel exploitation than from wind power projects. And there are ways to minimize bat and bird fatalities at wind-energy facilities. Learn more about how wind energy impacts bats.

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Do Not Touch or Approach Bats

The park's bat species are active mainly at night, although you may occasionally see a bat out in daylight. However, if you see a bat that is behaving erratically, is unafraid of humans, or is lying on the ground, it may be sick. Humans can get some of the diseases that make bats sick, including the fatal disease rabies, so it is important not to touch or approach bats closely so that you do not get sick too. Dead bats located in a storage area in the Park have recently tested positive for rabies.

If you see a bat on the ground or acting sick, do not approach it and tell a park ranger right away. If you accidentally contact a bat, report this to a park ranger and talk to your doctor. The bat will be tested for disease and you may need medical treatment to prevent rabies. This can keep both you and bats healthy!

 

How You Can Help

(The tips below are based on the White-Nose Syndrome Response Team's How You Can Help page.)

In your backyard

  • Provide homes for bats. Follow these directions to build a bat house in your yard.
  • Be observant. Watch your bat house and count the number of bats that use it. Many states keep track of bat populations.
  • Reduce disturbance to natural bat habitats around your home. For example, reduce outdoor lighting, minimize tree clearing, and protect streams and wetlands.
  • Avoid using pesticides that can work their way up from plants and/or insects to bats and other animals.
  • If bats are in your home and you don't want them there, work with your local natural resource agency to exclude or remove them without hurting them after the end of the maternity season. Bat exclusion should NEVER be performed during any period when bats do not leave their roost on a regular nightly basis. This includes: during maternity season in the summer; hibernation or torpor (a less lengthy period of inactivity) in winter; and during periods of inclement weather.
  • Learn more about bats by reading books and periodical about bats. There are also a number of good websites; Bat Conservation International's website is a good starting place.
  • Plant a pollinator garden that has flowers that will not just attract bees and hummingbirds, but bats, as well.

In your community

  • Learn about bats and teach others about bats. They are fascinating creatures and an important part of our environment.
  • Be observant. Watch for bats in your area.
  • Stay out of caves and mines where bats are known or suspected to hibernate.
  • Attend educational programs or events celebrating bats, such as Bat Week events every October.
  • Some states and organizations sponsor bat emergence counts or other activities. Contact your state natural resource agency or local conservation groups for opportunities.
  • Report unusual bat behavior to your state natural resource agency, including bats flying during the day when they should be hibernating (December through March) and bats roosting in sunlight on the outside of structures. More difficult to tell is unusual behavior when bats are not hibernating (April through September); however, bats roosting in the sunlight or flying in the middle of the day is unusual. Bats unable to fly or struggling to get off the ground is also unusual.

In/near bat habitat (caves, abandoned mines, etc.)

  • Avoid possible spread of white-nose syndrome by humans by cleaning shoes and gear before and after entering caves. Learn how to decontaminate your gear.
  • Leave bats alone. Don’t disturb bats.
  • Obey signs: Don’t enter closed or gated caves.
  • Attend educational programs and volunteer opportunities in visitor centers. Visit our Ranger-guide Programs page to learn whether the park will be offering any programs about bats.

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More Information

Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center

National Park Service

U.S. Geological Survey

White-nose Syndrome Response Team

The White-nose Syndrome Response Team is composed of biologists, researchers, land managers and bat lovers across North America united in the fight against white-nose syndrome. They hail from more than 100 federal, state and provincial agencies; tribes; universities; and non-governmental groups. Their goal is to prevent permanent loss of bat populations from the disease.

Bat Conservation International

Bat Conservation International is dedicated to the enduring protection of the world's 1300+ species of bats and their habitats and creating a world in which bats and humans successfully coexist.

National Speleological Society

The National Speleological Society is the largest organization in the world working every day to further the exploration, study, and protection of caves and their environments, and foster fellowship among cavers.

From the Blog of the Interior

9 of the coolest bat species in the United States Posted October 24, 2018
Check out some of the bat species found in the U.S. and how Department of the Interior staff are working to protect them.

13 Awesome Facts About Bats Posted October 24, 2017
Called creepy, scary and spooky, bats often get a bad rap. They’re an important species that impact our daily lives in ways we might not even realize. From pollinating our favorite fruits to eating pesky insects to inspiring medical marvels, bats are heroes of the night. Bat Week—held the last week in October—celebrates the role of bats in nature and all these amazing creatures do for us. Check out some interesting bat facts (and cool photos).

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Last updated: December 23, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Phone:

415-464-5100
This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (i.e., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; weather forecast; fire danger information; shuttle bus system status; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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