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Published June 06, 2022
Some cities and towns in Wyoming will be going a little batty this summer.
The University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute will host five free Summer Bat Walks, beginning tonight (Monday) along the Laramie River Greenbelt in Optimist Park from 8:30-10 p.m.
“Our main goal with the bat walks is to introduce community members to an animal group they often don’t encounter,” says Mason Lee, senior project coordinator of the Biodiversity Institute who leads the walks. “Since bats are nocturnal and aren’t like birds or deer that people are more familiar with, there’s a lot of misconceptions and fears about bats. We want our bat walk attendees to walk away with a new appreciation and respect for bats.”
For example, bats are invaluable to Wyoming and to ecosystems around the world. All bats in Wyoming -- of which there are 18 species -- are insectivores, and they eat a lot of crop pests. It is estimated that, in the U.S., bats save farmers $3 billion each year in pest control, Lee says. Insectivorous bats help protect crops, such as corn, cotton, potatoes and wheat.
“The ones most often encountered on our bat walks around the state, so far, are big brown bats, hoary bats and little brown myotis,” says Lee, who is a certified Bat Walk Ambassador through Bat Conservation International (BCI). “We have around nine species that we might possibly pick up along the greenbelt.”
BCI is an international, nongovernmental organization working to conserve the world’s bats and their habitats through conservation, research and education efforts. The Biodiversity Institute is the only certified Bat Walk Ambassador to offer this program in Wyoming. Bat walks are designed to introduce communities to the amazing and beneficial flying mammals that live in their area.
“A lot of our bats in Wyoming are actually tree-roosting species,” Lee explains. “The habitat along the greenbelt is pretty good for bats. There are lots of trees and a wide-open water source. Bats drink ‘on the wing’ while they fly. So, they need large stretches of water in order to drink and plenty of open foraging area with native insects to eat.”
Most bats echolocate at a frequency that is too high for human ears. But a device, known as an Echo Meter Touch, that Lee takes on the walks “translates” their calls to a lower frequency that can be heard by people. For a recording of bats during a previous bat walk, go to https://vimeo.com/717518476.
Bats also have chatter or social calls that they emit when they are in bat boxes, which are artificial roosts. These chatter or social calls are at lower frequencies, which humans can sometimes hear, Lee says.
The bat walks are capped at 20 participants each.
“Too large of a group makes it hard for folks to see and hear the bat calls as they come in,” Lee says. “The Laramie Bat Walk quickly reached 20 participants. So, yes, it is currently closed to additional registrants. But we still have lots of space available for our Saratoga, Sheridan and Dubois walks.”
All bat walks are scheduled from 8:30-10 p.m. Locations and dates are as follows:
-- Laramie: June 6 (tonight), Laramie River Greenbelt at Optimist Park. Registration is closed.
-- Saratoga: Thursday, June 23, Veterans Island Park.
-- Cheyenne: Wednesday, July 13, Mylar Park.
-- Sheridan: Tuesday, July 19, South Park open space.
-- Dubois: Monday, Aug. 1, Pete’s Pond.
For more information about Summer Bat Walks or to register for a bat walk, go to http://wyobiodiversity.org/index.php/outreach/bat-walks.
The UW Biodiversity Institute fosters conservation of biodiversity through scientific discovery, creative dissemination, education and public engagement. In this setting, scientists, citizens, students and educators come together to share a wealth of perspectives on the study and appreciation of biodiversity -- from microbes to poetry and ecosystems to economics. Learn more at www.wyomingbiodiversity.org.