Steamboat Springs — The silhouette of a bat is an ancient Halloween trope: Nocturnal and mysterious, the bat often is cast as a spooky symbol of fear and fright.
But bat conservation specialist Rob Mies is in Steamboat this weekend to help dispel the stigma of a fascinatingly misunderstood creature: They’re not slimy or dangerous, and they’re not disease-ridden; they’re actually more closely related to primates than rodents.
Mies will be bringing four ambassador bats from around the world to Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library on Sunday, including a Malayan flying fox (at 3 pounds, she has a 5-foot wing span), a big brown bat that can be found in Colorado and an endangered golden bat from an island in the Indian Ocean.
He and the bats will appear at a family-oriented event at 3 p.m. and a more in-depth adult program at 6:30 p.m.
The events are free, but donations will be accepted for the Yampa Valley Land Trust.
“I think the first thing I like people to understand is how amazing bats really are,” Mies said. “They’re the only mammals ever to fly. It’s very unique and even strange in the mammal world.”
And not only are they curiously interesting, they’re invaluable ecologically and economically.
Mies said a recent study placed a $34 billion value on bats for U.S. farmers who rely on bats to eat the nighttime insects like moths and beetles that could destroy crops or force farmers to use pesticides.
They’re also vital to the pollination of several plants, including the agave plant used in tequila.
“Toast the bats every time you have a margarita,” he said.
Here in Routt County, bats are an important part of environmental conversations.
The Yampa Valley Land Trust, which is sponsoring Mies’ two appearances Sunday, has a specific reason for its interest in educating the community about bats: The group is responsible for finding a new home for about 1,000 little brown bats that happen to reside on the historic Rehder Ranch. The land trust hopes to renovate the five historic structures on the property but not without working with state and national wildlife officials on finding a way to conserve these native creatures.
“We love the bats,” said Susan Dorsey, executive director of the Yampa Valley Land Trust. “We’re working to give them a home of their own.”
As a part of his presentation, Mies will talk about building bat houses as a way to offer up a home to native bats and help support the health of their population.
“For average homeowners, the best thing for all of us to do is to use as little pesticides as possible and putting up bat houses,” said Mies. “The bats that do make it through the winter need to find safe places to raise their young.
“And then, also teaching people. A lot of people fear bats. The more people know the uniqueness and the importance of bats, the less they’ll kill them, and the more they’ll protect them.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com