West Texas bats, what they do and where they go
With temperatures dropping, bats will be leaving the state in search of warmer climates. Bats are crucial to the ecosystem, contributing the equivalent of $1.4 billion in insect control to Texas agriculture, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The last week in October is International Bat Week and with temperatures dropping, bats will be leaving the state in search of warmer climates.
Texas is home to over 30 species of bats, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Bats in West Texas and the Panhandle include the Eastern Red Bat, Little Brown Bat, Cave Myotis, Tricolored Bat, Northern Long-eared Bat and many others, said Juliette Garza, park interpreter at Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway.
Clarity Tunnel on Caprock Canyons’ trailway has been home to Mexican Free-tailed bats since the railroad was decommissioned in 1989, Garza explained. The colony has about half a million bats.
Bats are crucial to the ecosystem. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, bats contribute the equivalent of $1.4 billion in insect control to Texas agriculture.
In the greater Quitaque area, Garza said bats control pests like Cotton Bollworms.
“We believe it’s actually their favorite snack because their diet is about 80% just African Bollworms here,” she said.
In addition to protecting plants like cotton and corn, bats serve to disperse seeds and pollinate plants, like agave.
White-Nose Syndrome is a disease caused by a fungus that attacks hibernating bats. It has killed millions of bats across the continent and has the ability to wipe out an entire colony once infected. WNS was first discovered in Texas in the Panhandle in 2017 and has been confirmed in 20 counties across the state.
Other threats facing Texas bats include habitat loss and disturbances in their roosting sites. People can help bat populations by building bat boxes.
A bat box is a small, artificial roost that can be built in urban areas, backyards, or the side of buildings. As well as offering shelter, Garza said bat boxes can benefit those who put them up because bat droppings can be great fertilizer.
When it gets cold, Garza said bats tend to migrate to Mexico, South, or Central America. In the summer, Caprock Canyons holds van tours for guests to safely observe bats as they leave the tunnel to hunt in the evening.
Check out profiles on regional bats on Bat Conservation International.
More ways to help bats can be found on batweek.org.
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