Bringing In The Bats – Live Encounter Encourages a Bat House Boom

bat

 

Steamboat Magazine

Jennie Lay

Bat biologist Rob Mies sauntered around the Bud Werner Memorial Library with a Big Brown Bat named Radar peeking from his leather-gloved palm. Contrary to his species name, Radar weighs the equivalent of four nickels. With tiny eyes and large ears, shy Radar snoozed and echolocated his admirers. He was a mealworm-eating micro bat on parade for 300 inquisitive sets of eyes – a species found around the Yampa Valley, but doubtfully one anyone had ever seen so close.

Next came Kamila, a tropical Malayan flying fox that is one of the largest bat species in the world. She eats fruit and wouldn’t naturally be found within 8,000 miles of Steamboat Springs. Her translucent wings garnered electric aahs as she unveiled their nearly five-foot span. “They look more fragile than they actually are,” Mies explained. Wrapped around Kamila’s woolen body, they appeared clingy, like cellophane stretched over four long fingers and a small thumb. “The wings feel like your eyelid. It’s smooth, strong skin,” he said.

This was a bat encounter few will forget – and an opportunity to raise appreciation for bats that lurk in Steamboat’s backyards. Edging from late fall into winter, the Yampa Valley’s own migrating bats have departed for the season. Mies said this is prime time to build bat houses to prepare for their return next spring.

“If you build it they will come,” says local bat expert Apple Snider. “Don’t despair if they don’t move in right away.”

With this hope in mind, the Yampa Valley Land Trust is working with wildlife biologists at the conserved 250-acre Rehder Ranch located on Harrison Creek near Lake Catamount. They aim to create new homes for about 1,000 little brown bats currently residing in the ranch’s historic structures. Ultimately, bat houses (or perhaps a bat condo) are expected to lure the bats from the rafters.

Steamboat’s two most common bats are little brown bats and long-legged bats. It’s not uncommon during summer to be sitting on your deck at twilight and watch them swooping in search of insects. Snider estimates nine different species are likely to ply local skies, rounding out the list with the Western small-footed bat, long-eared bat, fringed bat, hoary bat, silver-haired bat, big brown bat and Townsend’s big-eared bat. Traveling west towards Dinosaur National Monument with its warmer temperatures, canyons and towering rock faces, the species count increases.

Before becoming a wildlife biologist for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Snider worked with Mies. The founder of the Organization of Bat Conservation is a charismatic conservationist who has appeared with his rescue bats on television alongside everyone from Conan O’Brien to Martha Stewart. (Mies says O’Brien was wary. Stewart wanted to snuggle them – a definite no-no.) In Steamboat this fall, Mies reigned over the library like a pied piper, weaving among mesmerized bat fans with seemingly infinite knowledge and four magnificent examples of the planet’s only flying mammals.

The bat fossil record is 54 million years old, dating to a specimen found in Wyoming’s Green River Formation. While bats were initially classified as “birds with fur,” science has since clarified things. These mammals have one or two pups per year, nurse them, then teach them to fly. Bats live in colonies where they can hide during the day, sometimes living to 30 years old.

While there are bats that eat fish, frogs, nectar and blood among the more than 1,200 globally known species, all of Colorado’s bats eat insects. That diet largely includes beetles, moths and mosquitoes, hence 24-36 sharp teeth to chew through hard insect shells. They even eat mountain pine beetles that have devastated Western forests if the beetles happen to take their limited flights at the right time of day.

The deadly white nose syndrome has dominated bat news since it was first discovered in New York in 2006 and has since spread to 19 states, but the fungus has yet to appear in Colorado. Oklahoma is the closest sighting so far. It grows in cold caves and mines and affects hibernating bats by leaving an irritating white powder on their noses that wakes them up repeatedly, sending them out into the cold winter in search of food during a season when insects aren’t available. Ultimately, the repeated awakening burns up stored fat and kills the bats – a death toll now estimated at more than 6 million.

Since Steamboat doesn’t have giant caves or many abandoned mines for colonies to roost, our bats tend to be more dispersed – perhaps an advantage should the fungus appear in Colorado. Here, they live in dead tree snags around the forest, rock pockets, behind loose bark and in boulder field crevices and cliff cracks. They tuck themselves away from predators like hawks, owls, eagles, snakes, raccoons and house cats – making attics and barns appealing habitat too.

But perhaps most obvious in our daily lives, a single bat eats anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 insects per night. A bat house built today might just preserve next summer’s fragile garden: As many as 100 bats can roost inside a 1’x2’ house, devouring up to a half million insects each night.

 

From the Steamboat Pilot & Today: “Photographer Zooms in on Yampa Valley With Presentation”

Steamboat Pilot & Today (November 3, 2012)

By Tom Ross

Steamboat Springs — Yampa Valley residents have a chance Sunday night to admire images from John Fielder’s newest books while gaining renewed appreciation for the wealth of benefits lottery proceeds, in the form of millions of dollars in Great Outdoors Colorado grants, have bought to the landscape of the Yampa Valley.

Fielder, easily Colorado’s most-recognized landscape photographer, will give a slideshow and speak at Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library, placing particular emphasis on local projects that have received GOCo grants.

Anytime I pull one of Fielder’s books out of my own library, I never fail to be impressed at his ability to find great photographic images in all kinds of light. His 1993 book “To Walk in Wilderness,” about a summer devoted to the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness Area, is a great example. Some of my favorite images in the book were made under overcast skies. And if I’m honest, I have to acknowledge that I might have been foolish enough to take a pass on those photographic opportunities because “the light was too flat.”

His newest books are a guide book, “Guide to Colorado’s Great Outdoors: Lottery-Funded Parks, Trails, Wildlife Areas & Open Spaces,” and a picture book, “Colorado’s Great Outdoors: Celebrating 20 Years of Lottery-Funded Lands.”

I can promise you that Fielder’s presentation will help you see our valley through fresh eyes.

But Sunday’s presentation takes on additional meaning from the fact that it also will observe the 20th anniversaries of GOCo and the Yampa Valley Land Trust, which also has played a major role in preserving the Yampa and Elk river valleys. Fielder will give 30 percent of the proceeds from book sales to the Land Trust.

John Fielder captured the YVLT-conserved Rossi Ranch, the state's first conservation easement to be funded by GOCO.
John Fielder captured the YVLT-conserved “Rossi Ranch on the Yampa River,” the state’s first conservation easement to be funded by GOCO.

GOCo’s grants to land preservation projects here are too numerous to mention.

As recently as June of this year, GOCo announced a $2.4 million grant to help secure a conservation easement that would add trail links and a public fishing area along the Yampa River just south of city limits. A portion of the funds also would be used to create a parking area formalizing access to a piece of city land straddling the river between Snow Bowl and Steamboat Campground at the Fournier Open Space.

GOCo was created by a citizens initiative approved by 58 percent of voters statewide in 1992. It is funded by half of Colorado Lottery proceeds.

GOCo had awarded 109 grants totaling $18.6 million in Routt County through June 2008, but the true number was closer to $30 million with inclusion of $12 million in grants for projects overlapping county lines. The largest share of the $12 million is $9.4 million for the Yampa River Legacy Project. And the grants have continued to flow our way.

GOCo grants also come in smaller packages. In 2011, a $35,000 grant helped to complete the Beall Trail on Emerald Mountain, and a grant of $21,840 supported the Steamboat Springs Community Youth Corps.

Sunday night offers the opportunity to see the Yampa Valley the same way one of the most talented photographers in Colorado does, while showing appreciation for what Great Outdoors Colorado and its staff have done for the landscape we love.

Ambassador Bats Coming to Steamboat Springs to Help Dispel Stigma

Steamboat Today

Yampa Valley Land Trust sponsors bat specialist Rob Mies as he returns to Werner Library on Sunday for two live bat programs featuring ambassador bats from around the world.

Nichole Inglis

 

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