Bat Week 2017

A week to mark the importance of bats to the environment and economy

Photo essay compiled by Byrhonda Lyons
October 26, 2017

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan, and leaders in bat conservation kicked off Bat Week 2017 in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, October 25, 2017. Credit: Tami Heilemann/DOI

Few of nature’s animals are as misunderstood as bats. Though often feared and loathed as sinister creatures of the night, bats are vital to the health of our environment and our economy as pollinators and seed dispersers.

Bats also play key roles in nature providing important benefits by controlling insect pests. Recent studies estimate that bats eat enough pests to save the U.S. corn industry alone more than $1 billion per year in crop damage and pesticide costs, and more than $3 billion per year to all agricultural production.

For the past decade, however, some bats have been dying in alarming numbers due to a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome (WNS).

Across the continent, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners are working to protect bats, research treatments to halt the spread of WNS, and raise awareness about just how incredible - and vulnerable - these creatures are.

Get to know the bats of California and the west in this photo essay, followed by our Bat Week Storymap below:

California leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus californicus): The California leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus californicus) is the only bat in North America, north of Mexico, with large ears and leaf-like projections on the nose. They are grayish to dark brown on their back and have paler fur below. They have very large ears and an erect triangular flap on nose. Because their wings are short and broad they are not suited for long distance flight needed for migration. Credit: Alan Harper

California leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus californicus): The California leaf-nosed bats preferred habitats are caves, mines, and rock shelters. Roost sites are usually located near foraging areas. Credit: Alan Harper

Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus): One of the most widespread mammals in North America, the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) is named for its large size and its fairly uniform brown fur. This species has a robust body and large, broad head, with relatively large eyes and short, thick, rounded ears, which are furred only at the base. The big brown bat’s wings are short and broad, and the tip of this species’ tail extends to just beyond the edge of the tail membrane. Credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWS

The Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) has yellowish brown to cream colored fur on its back and white fur on its belly.  Credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWS

Western yellow bat (Lasiurus xanthinus): The western yellow bat (Lasiurus xanthinus) is a medium to large-sized bat. Their fur is yellowish-buff to light brown, with fur tipped with gray or white. This species weighs an average of 0.32-0.8 oz and has a wingspan of 13-14 inches. Female yellow bats are slightly larger than the male bats. Credit: Juan Cruzado Cortés

Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus):" What is most noticeable about this bat are its large ears. The ears are almost half as long as the total length of its head and body. Also, its eyes are larger than most species of North American bats. Credit: Connor Long

Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus): Male and female big brown bats are similar in appearance, but females are slightly larger than males. The big brown bat varies somewhat in appearance across its large range, and around 11 subspecies are currently recognized. Credit: Ann Froschauer/USFWS