Bat file

The Townsend’s big-eared bat is one of the species in Northern Utah.

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As the night temperatures rise, so do bat sightings. But that doesn’t mean there are more of the flying mammals in the area, according to Adam Brewerton with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

This time of year is when bat young “start moving around a little bit,” said the Northern Utah Region’s wildlife conservation biologist. “The nights are really short, the night’s really warm. So it’s not necessarily that bats are just showing up now, but often they’ve been there since May and people are only noticing them now.”

This typically leads to an increase in calls of bats being found in or near people’s homes and apartments, though so far in Logan, Bryan Lay, an animal control officer with Logan Police Department, said he’s only had about one call a week. He said he expects that to rise in coming months.

“The season is coming up where they’ll be migrating through, so people will start to see them around a bit,” Lay said, “from about now until September, or until it starts freezing.”

Typically, mothers start roosting for maternity in the spring and have their young in May or June. Sometimes a small colony of mothers and pups can roost together in homes, though most are found in natural caves and crags.

“They just look for a place to go,” Lay said, “and if your house looks like a cave to them, that’s where they’ll go.”

In order to protect the young, it’s illegal to seal off areas where bats might be roosting or to remove the colonies until August, once the young bats have learned to fly and are no longer dependent on their mothers for milk.

Brewerton said now is the time many of the young bats are starting to learn how to fly, which leads to increased sightings of the creatures because the “babies are not as good at flying out undetected.”

Jessica Tegt, the engagement and outreach coordinator for the Berryman Institute at Utah State University, added that more people staying close to home due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an influx of people taking to trails and getting outside for recreation — including caves and areas where bats roost.

“I think when we have the opportunity to view animals in their natural habitat and see that these animals are not attacking people’s heads,” Tegt said. “They’re pretty fascinating actually, the way that they hunt and they use their echolocation to hunt for food.”

In 2018, Gary Giles became the first person to die from rabies in Utah since 1944 due to a bat infestation in his home. Tegt added that while bats have gotten a bad rap for being disease carriers, less than 0.5% of bats are rabies carriers.

Though she and other experts said handling bats is a bad idea, Tegt said bats’ guano is more likely to cause health defects than bats themselves because most are not aggressive unless threatened or trying to get to their babies.

In fact, bats are a protected species in Utah and are crucial for local ecosystems, Tegt said.

“They do way more good than they do harm, and the loss of bats in our ecosystem would probably be akin to losing our bees,” she said. “We would have devastation. We’d be overrun with insects. In some areas, they’re pollinators, so we would have issues with pollination.”

One common species in the area, the Little Brown Myotis, or the little brown bat, can eat up to 6,000 mosquitoes a night. According to Kimberly Hersey, DWR’s mammal conservation coordinator, bats are good for crop-pest control, as well, as moths are some of the bigger species’ favorite foods.

There are 18 confirmed species of bats that live in Utah, with some of the most common in the area being the Little Brown Myotis, Big Brown Bat and Townsend’s big-eared bat. While Hersey said it’s less common to see large hibernating colonies in Utah than in Eastern states, the Logan Cave is home to one of the largest Townsend bat colonies with as many as 400 wintering there.

More information on how to address bats living in dwellings and how to safely interact with wildlife, such as building bat houses in backyards or open spaces to encourage their pest control while keeping them away from homes, is available at wildawareutah.org.

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