Let’s start off boldly on this Halloween. Bats are not scary and most definitely not vampires. Bats are absolutely amazing animals and nothing like the villains they are portrayed as in movies. The different types of these incredible mammals (yes mammals and no not flying rodents) account for almost 25% of the mammal population here on earth. And lucky for us Arizona is home to 28 species.

Grand Canyon outfitters are lucky because there are about 20 documented types of bats in the Canyon alone. There are 5 types of bats more common than the others. The most common is the Western pipistrelle bat. Bats can be observed best at either dawn or dusk when they are feeding. Most bats living in this area are insectivorous, meaning that they eat bugs like mosquitos, gnats and even scorpions. This helps keep the insect population under control and helps maintain a healthy ecosystem.

One of the bats most noticeable characteristics are their large ears. The bats make sounds that bounce off objects and helps them locate their pray. Bats sleep during the day. They can be found throughout the area in caves, mines and even cracks in the rocks. Multiple diseases that can effect bats are rabies and the white nose fungal disease. Due to the encroachment of human populations, many types of bats are dropping in numbers and even becoming endangered. When threatened or spooked, bats will often leave their roost and not return leaving their young behind.

A perfect example of encroachment is the Bat Cave near Lake Mead. Though not a place guest will see on a Hatch trip it still has an interesting history. In the 1950’s a company built a guano mine here to harvest the large accumulations found in the cave. The guano was desirable for use as a fertilizer. An elaborate system was built to mine and move the guano – including an aerial tramway. The operation only lasted a few years and then shut down. The mining equipment can still be found in the area. Luckily it seems that Mexican free-tailed bats are still observed in the area.

The park and other organizations are banding together to help reestablish populations. One of the prime examples is Stanton’s Cave near Red Wall Cavern and Vasey’s Paradise. Due to the archaeological activity of the cave and curious river runners, the Townsend’s Big-eared bats that had roosted in the cave for decades if not centuries moved out. Understanding the need for a “bat friendly” gate to protect both the bats and the relics in the cave, NPS in coordination of U.S. Fish and Wildlife and BCI constructed this gate and have been monitoring bat activity ever since. FYI this is the same cave where Steve’s grandfather, Bus Hatch, identified split twig figurines in the 1930s.

Grand Canyon outfitters

Townsend’s big-eared bat – Photo Courtesy of NPS

Grand Canyon outfitters understand that bats are incredibly important to ecosystems here and around the world. Keeping appropriate distance and not disturbing roosting bats is important. Find out more information from the NPS by checking out their article here.

Happy Halloween! By the Way, Grand Canyon Outfitters Kind of Love Bats! was last modified: July 22nd, 2015 by Katy Nelson

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