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Bats Are Part of Lake Tahoe's EcoSystem

TitleBats Are Part of Lake Tahoe's EcoSystem
Author/CreatorCobourn, John; Purdy, Shelly; Segale, Heather M.
Related item(s)Press Release available at
Date Original2005-01-11
Summary/DescriptionLake Tahoe Report Segment #152 - "Bats Are Part of Lake Tahoe's Ecosystem" (Air Date: Jan. 17, 2006).
SubjectBats -- Tahoe, Lake, Region (Calif. and Nev.)
LocationLake Tahoe (Calif. and Nev.)
Tahoe, Lake (Calif and Nev)
CollectionThe Lake Tahoe Report
Original PublisherLake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition (
Electronic PublisherUniversity of Nevada, Reno - Department of Teaching and Learning Technologies
Ordering and Permissions InformationFor more information, contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, or 775-832-4138.
Date Digital2006-02-15
RelationWindows Media Player
Resource TypeMoving Image
Contributing InstitutionUniversity of Nevada, Reno
TranscriptionSegement 152 - While bats are not the type of animal most people think of as cute and cuddly, they are an important part of Lake Tahoe's ecosystem. However, due to decades of human fear and misunderstanding, bats are in alarming decline across the world. Not only are they suffering as their natural habitat is cleared for development, but humans also often exterminate them. According to wildlife biologist Stewart McMorrow of the California Tahoe Conservancy, "People generally think that bats are dirty and that they may try to bite them. However, this could not be further from the truth. Bats keep themselves very tidy, and they are more afraid of humans than we are of them." In summer and fall, you will most likely see Tahoe's bats feeding around sunset at the lake's shores or near creeks. Bats choose special places to roost and sleep in the day, sometimes using standing dead trees or piers. Bats are the only flying mammals. They give birth to live young and nourish them with milk. Being nocturnal, they are most active at night and sleep or roost during the day, hanging upside-down. They live in all types of habitats around the world, except at the poles. Bats are more similar to humans than you would expect. They have a nine-month gestation period and usually only one baby per year. They have very complex bodies with bones very similar to humans. The supporting bones in their wings are like our fingers. Contrary to popular myths, bats are not blind, do not become entangled in human hair, and seldom transmit disease to other animals or humans. All bats can see, but some use a special sonar system called echolocation. These bats make high-frequency calls out of their mouths or noses and then listen for echoes to bounce from objects in front of them. They are able to form pictures in their brains by listening to reflected sounds, just as we form pictures in our brains by interpreting reflected light with our eyes. In this way, bats are able to comfortably move around at night, avoiding predators, maneuvering around obstacles, locating their food, and capturing insects in total darkness. Of the 5, 000 species of mammals on the earth, over 900 are bats. In the Lake Tahoe Basin, there are about 13 species of bats. All of Tahoe's bats eat insects and many small bats can eat hundreds of mosquitoes in a single hour. They need to eat so much because they have high metabolisms and expend a lot of energy in flight. As consumers of vast amounts of pests, bats rank among humanity's best allies. Depending on where you live, you may want to provide shelters, called bat boxes, for bats so they can help keep the mosquito population down. If we lose our bat species, the demand for chemical pesticides will increase, jeopardizing whole ecosystems of other animal and plant species. The bats of Tahoe are largely migratory, arriving in the Tahoe area in early summer and staying until nights get cold enough to drive away their food sources. Then, they migrate to places warmer and richer in food for the winter. Occasionally, some bats may decide to spend their winters inside our houses. They prefer stable areas where the temperature does not change significantly, such as in our attics. When homeowners find that they have a family of bats in their attic or shed, they should seek professional advice from a wildlife biologist or agency, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bats usually breed in the early summer, so they are most vulnerable during that time. Generally, a bat colony can be evicted when the babies are old enough to fly. A professional must make this decision with full cooperation from the landowner. It is best to be gentle with these special animals in and around your home. Each species of bat holds a special niche in Lake Tahoe's ecosystem. For more information about bats, bat houses, and related issues, see the Bat Conservation International Web site,, or contact your local office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, or the Nevada Division of Wildlife.

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