Grasping the Complexity of Bats

Shadows in the night, bats exist in nearly every habitat on Earth. They’re complex mammals — they play a vital role for the environment — preying on insects and other such pests — but also carry infectious diseases such as rabies.

Microbats are among two types (the other are megabats). Consuming millions of insects per night, microbats act as a natural pest control for humans as well as plants. In fact, some farmers are known to rely more on them than toxic pesticides for their crops. Vampire bats are part of this group, although they feed on blood from animals such as cattle and horses rather than insects.

Megabats, native to tropical climates, aid fruit plants, as they drink nectar and can pollinate them.

Many different families and species of bats exist within those two groups; there are eight species native to New Hampshire, including the Eastern Red bat, silver-haired bat, the Hoary bat and the big brown bat.

Several others: the Northern long-eared bat, tricolored bat, the Eastern small-footed bat and little brown bat, are endangered in the state. According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Division, they’re experiencing a loss of foraging and roosting habitats as well as changes in the locations where they hibernate in winter (caves, barns and other buildings). The prevalence of White-Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that affects bats during hibernation, is also a cited problem. Additionally, bats typically reproduce just a couple of times a year — changes to locations that house maternity colonies prompt a population decline.

Helping the Granite State’s endangered bats is part of the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan, a blueprint for conserving wildlife species and their habitats.

A two-part program — Go Batty for Bats, slated for Oct. 17 and 18 at the Ashuelot River Park and Horatio Colony Nature Preserve in Keene and Swanzey — is aimed at helping people better understand these winged mammals, as well as their importance to the environment and ways to help with their preservation. Hosted by Ally Gelinas, a graduated student at Antioch University of New England and associate wildlife biologist, the program will focus on bats’ behaviors and reproductive cycles, hibernation and their habitats.

Registration is required for this program, as space is limited. Social distancing and other safety protocols will be followed. For more information and to register, call (603) 283-2115 or email colonypreserve@antioch.edu.