Bat encounters may increase as pups are learning to fly
If Routt County residents are going to encounter a bat, this is likely the time of year for it, as locally born bat pups are about three to four weeks old and just learning to fly.
“The young ones get themselves in trouble. That’s what freaks people out,” said Al Deeds, the owner of Hilltop Home Services in Steamboat Springs who responds to some 200 bat calls from homeowners each year.
Deeds has been removing and releasing bats, and sealing up bat entrance holes for 30 years.
Earlier this week, Deeds was called to a Routt County home to release a bat that was in a dog treat container. Based on his experience, he is receiving about twice the amount of bat calls these days compared to about a decade ago. Those calls are also resulting in bigger finds.
The business owner’s longevity in the industry, plus an increasing number of more urban people moving into rural mountain communities, may also be boosting his calls, Deeds said.
Residents and homeowners may encounter bats more often near large water sources and good habitat for small insects such as near Steamboat, Stagecoach and Catamount lakes, Deeds said.
Routt County is likely home to tens of thousands of bats, mostly little brown bats, said Robert Schorr, Colorado State University conservation biologist.
Schorr has been studying bats for 25 years and monitoring two colonies of little brown bats in Routt County in old buildings at Rehder and Carpenter ranches for seven years. He estimates a roost of 500 bats at Rehder Ranch near Catamount Lake and 400 at Carpenter Ranch east of Hayden.
Schorr and research colleagues will be in Routt County next week for a review of the two local bat colonies as part of ongoing monitoring for the deadly fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, which is killing bats in North America.
So far, the fungal disease is as close as Fort Laramie National Historic Site in southeastern Wyoming and was documented in July at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site near La Junta.
Schorr said female little brown bats only have one pup each year, so it’s important for the small mammals to stay disease-free. The biologist is also encouraging anyone in Routt County who has bats on their property and is willing to leave them undisturbed to email him at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org to aid with additional bat monitoring sites.
“We are always looking to find roosts where people aren’t looking to remove the bats,” Schorr said. “It’s a great opportunity for long-term monitoring.”
According to the National Wildlife Foundation, little brown bats on average weigh less than half an ounce and have a wingspan of 8-11 inches. Females are typically larger than males.
Both Schorr and Deeds emphasized that concerns about bats carrying rabies are overinflated and noted bats are important to help control mosquito and other small bug populations.
However, bat encounters can stir up questions from residents.
“As with last summer, there have been several calls to Routt County Public Health about bat encounters,” said Amanda Shepherd, the county’s public information officer. “Homeowners should ensure that bats are not able to enter homes and avoid skin contact with bats.”
In the infrequent instance of a bite from a juvenile bat, people may not realize they have been bitten, especially if they were sleeping, according to the health department. So, the recommended approach after a possible bite is to carefully capture the bat while wearing gloves and contact a physician.
Schorr noted people should not touch or pick up bats lying still on the ground in a neighborhood setting. Since bats are not interested in being around humans, a bat lying still near people could be sick, he said.
The last time a bat in Routt County tested positive for rabies was August 2019 in Hayden, according to Routt County Public Health.
Routt County Public Health:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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