Upside down |

Upside down

Bats are one of the most feared and misunderstood animals.

But those who attend tonight’s “Creatures of the Night Hike and Bat Watch” at the Carpenter Ranch might leave with a changed impression.

“A lot of people are scared of bats because they are dark and fly out at night,” said Heidi Mipzelfeld, outreach and stewardship intern at the Carpenter Ranch east of Hayden. “I will help clear up any scary bat myths.”

Bats are extremely shy and non-aggressive and play the important role of feeding on enormous numbers of destructive insects, including mosquitoes, beetles and wasps. Mipzelfeld said bats are extremely beneficial, despite that the they spend more than half their lives upside down.

The focus of tonight’s hike and bat watch will be on the brown bats that live at the ranch, but the evening will begin with a short walk during which Mipzelfeld will talk about other night animals, including owls, birds and raccoons.

“The most charismatic ones are the owls,” Mipzelfeld said. “We will look for great horned and Western screech owls and see if we can hear them hooting.”

Mipzelfeld also will talk about the rare native riparian plant community that thrives along the section of the Yampa River that runs through the Carpenter Ranch. It’s a dynamic ecosystem that is a conservation priority for The Nature Conservancy, which owns the ranch.

The walk will commence in the house where the brown bats live – primarily in the chimney and attic areas.

“If you stand there at the right time, you will see them come out,” Mipzelfeld said. “You’ll see big troops fly out of the den together and fly around the house and yard and swoop up mosquitoes and other stuff.”

The brown bat is the most common species of bat in Northwest Colorado, and it is not uncommon for some species of bats to live near people, Mipzelfeld said.

“You can find them anywhere they can find a safe place to sleep during the day and have enough insects to eat,” she said.

Mipzelfeld thinks the most interesting thing about bats is their ability to hunt using echolocation.

“They hunt like dolphins and whales underwater where they put out sound waves and it rebounds into their magnificent ears and helps them locate and successfully catch their prey,” Mipzelfeld said.

“We’ll also point out the stars and get a closer look at night,” Mipzelfeld said. “It’s a new and exciting world for people who don’t hike at night.”

The hike is put on by Yampatika and sponsored by Steamboat Resorts. Drinks and snacks will be served, and Mipzelfeld suggests attendees take multiple layers of clothing, sturdy walking shoes and a flashlight.

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