Those of us who live in Colorado are fortunate enough to live alongside a dizzying array of wildlife, including bats. Although you may not seem them very often — apart from catching a glimpse of one flying from tree to tree in the moonlight or diving into bright street lights to catch unwary insects — there are a surprisingly large number of them here. In fact, there are over a dozen species of bats that call Colorado home, and they can be found everywhere from forests to farmland to urban areas.
In today’s blog, the wildlife control experts at Colorado Pest Management will be discussing what kinds of bats make their home in Colorado, how they benefit the area, and whether they are a health hazard to the human population.
Before we dive into the details, let’s get some basic bat facts out of the way.
- There are over 1,200 species of bats in the world
- By law, bats are a protected species in the United States
- Bats in Colorado munch exclusively on insects
- The smallest bat can eat over 600 insects per hour
- Bats roost in caves, mines, trees, attics, under roofs and siding, and under rocks
- Depending on their species, bats either hibernate or migrate during the fall
- Most bats cannot fly straight from the ground and must be in an elevated position in order to launch into the air
- Most bats use a form of sonar to guide them around objects and help them navigate accurately
- Bat populations are declining worldwide due to pesticide exposure and habitat destruction
Bat Species You’ll Find In Colorado
There are eighteen species of bats that live in Colorado, and they vary from the tiny canyon bat to the large brown bat. What are the different kinds that live here?
The big brown bat is the most common bat seen in Colorado and is found everywhere here, especially in towns and cities. They tend to congregate where humans live, and therefore are the most common species to spot; you’ll often find them swooping under street lights at night to catch flying insects that are attracted by the illumination. Big brown bats are rather large (at least when compared to other species) and can have a wingspan of 16 inches.
How Do Bats Benefit Colorado?
Bats are very beneficial to our region, which is partly why they are a protected species under federal and state law. When not hibernating or migrating to warmer climes during the colder months, bats keep themselves busy by hiding from the sun during the daytime or chasing after insects to feed their unending appetites at night. On average, a single bat of medium size will eat up to 600 insects per hour, and considering they spend most of their nights searching for prey, they are very prolific eaters.
Why is this good for Colorado? Bats help cut down on the number of insects that we have to deal with; if it wasn’t for insectivores like bats, we’d be installing bug zappers in every room of our homes and covering our beds with netting to keep the more noxious pests away from us while we sleep. Most importantly, though, is the fact that bats help to control the mosquito population, not only here in Colorado, but everywhere else they can be found. Bats have a voracious appetite for mosquitoes, and they tend to eat so many of them that we can attribute Colorado’s relatively low population of mosquitoes almost exclusively to these furry flying wonders.
Bats are so important to the ecology of Colorado that they should always be left alone if they are not directly interfering with human activity. If you see a bat roosting under your home’s patio, just leave it alone and it will (unless it is sick) eventually find its way to another location. Don’t underestimate the importance of bats to our ecological system — let them live their lives, and they’ll continue to do good things for us.
Are Bats A Health Hazard?
A healthy bat, as long as it is left undisturbed, does not pose a hazard to the people, pets, buildings, or terrain around it. In fact, it is most likely “paying its rent” by keeping the insect population low in the area. Unless provoked or sick, a bat will never act aggressively towards humans or other animals, and will only bite when defending itself. Bats are about as timid as a flying mammal can get!
Unhealthy bats are a different matter altogether. Among the diseases a sick bat can carry are the Ebola, Hendra, Nipa, and Marburg viruses, in addition to the infamous rabies virus. Due to their fondness for nesting and snuggling in groups, a single bat can easily transmit whatever nasty disease it may be carrying to its fellow roost-mates, which then spread it to even more bats through contact outside of the nest. It’s not that bats are inherently dirty creatures, it’s just that their need for closeness to other bats makes spreading communicable diseases even easier than it is for other flying animals.
So, does all this mean that bats are a health hazard to humans? The answer is tricky. Ultimately, a sick animal is a potentially dangerous animal, and any contact with a species outside of its own has the capacity to spread whatever sickness it is carrying to another. Statistically, bats are much less likely to spread a disease to humans than raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and domestic animals like dogs and cats.
Studies have shown that less than 1% of the bat population in Colorado carries a communicable disease, so it’s reasonable to assume that the chance of catching a disease from an infected bat is very, very low. As long as you don’t go around poking your fingers into bat roosts, picking up wounded bats off the side of the road, or allowing your dog to root around in caves, wood piles, and rock formations, you’ll be completely safe.
What Should You Do When You Encounter A Bat?
Watching bats go about their routine from a distance is a unique experience — seeing a group of them fly about at night, twisting and diving in the air like furry winged gymnasts, is something that most people won’t ever forget.
However, there are scenarios where a bat encounter should set off alarm bells. You should always avoid close contact with them in the following situations:
- A bat has found its way into your residence or business
- Bats are colonising the attic, basement, or other parts of a building regularly accessed by people or pets
- You have found a bat lying on the ground
- A bat is roosting out in the open during the daytime
- You have encountered a bat that is acting erratically or has lost control of its normal flight behavior
In circumstances such as these, it always pays to back off and contact a professional to investigate the matter, such as a wildlife conservation agency, animal welfare office, or wildlife control specialist like Colorado Pest Management — they’ll be able to capture the bats, take them off-site, and find them a happy new home, far away from human habitation.
Remember, never touch a bat with your bare hands! Doing so can put you at risk of being bitten and contracting a disease. Accidents can always happen, though — if you are ever bitten by a bat, immediately visit a doctor or emergency room for diagnosis and treatment, and then contact a pest control service to track down the bat and remove it from the area so it does not threaten others.
Colorado Pest Management Can Help You With Your Bat Problem
Since 1989, the pest control experts at Colorado Pest Management have been helping people resolve issues with bats encounters and roosting infestations. In addition to offering a humane and effective treatment program for bats, Colorado Pest Management also offers environmentally friendly and safe mitigation services for bed bugs, insects, voles, and birds.
Contact Colorado Pest Management now for a free estimate.