Celebrating Michigan’s Many Bats

Michigan is home to nine different bat species, nearly one-fifth of the total number of species in all of North America. There are many reasons to appreciate bats, from the essential pollination and pest control services that they provide, to the fact that they are the ONLY flying mammal on earth. During Bat Week, October 24-31, 2022, you can help Michigan bats by dispelling some common misconceptions about bats.

  • Common Misconceptions:
  • “Blind as a Bat” – although most bats have small eyes, they can actually see just fine. And with the aid of echolocation, they are able to find fast-moving insect targets at night!
  • Disease carriers – Not only does the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention note that fewer than 6 percent of bats tested were carriers of rabies, the fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome, which is the leading cause of population decline among many North American bats, is much more likely to be transmitted to bats from human interference with their habitat.
  • They ‘vant’ to suck your blood – only one species of bat (found in Mexico and South and Central America) has been known to bite humans, rarely, as they primarily feed on cattle.
Northern Long-eared bat photo courtesy Jill Utrup, USFWS.

Northern Long-eared Bat

Learn more about the critical role that bats play in the ecosystem, and share with your friends and family all the ways that bats are beneficial, by learning more about some of Michigan’s bat species below, and at batweek.org!

The northern long-eared bat is a federally threatened bat with a wide range. Found in 37 states in the U.S., these bats live in boreal forests for summer foraging and roosting, and caves for hibernation.

Although there are many threats to the species including habitat loss due to logging, the predominant threat by far is white-nose syndrome. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), if this disease had not emerged, it is unlikely the northern long-eared bat would be experiencing such a dramatic population decline. Numbers of northern long-eared bats, gathered from hibernacula counts, have declined by 97 to 100% across the species’ range. The USFWS is currently considering reclassifying these bats as endangered because of the threat of white-nose syndrome. Learn more about this classification process by clicking the link here.

Tricolored bat photo courtesy USFWS.

Tricolored Bat

Michigan’s eastern pipistrelle, also known as the tricolored bat, is so named for the multi-colored individual hairs of its fur, tricolored bats appear uniquely yellow-orange in contrast to other more brown-looking bats. Their “fluttery” flight pattern means that these small bats can be easily mistaken for large moths, according to the University of Michigan.

However, as one of the state’s primarily cave-hibernating species of bat, the tricolored bat has experienced significant population decline over the last 15 years, due primarily to the spread of white-nose syndrome. The fungal disease interrupts the bats hibernation cycle, causing them to become active and deplete their energy before there are available food sources in the spring. Once common across its range, estimates suggest that these bats have seen up to a 90% decrease in population since white-nose syndrome was first detected in 2006. Because of this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to list the tricolored bat as endangered under protection of the Endangered Species Act. Learn more about the process for classification by clicking this link.

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A Milestone Year

The Michigan Nature Association is celebrating its 70th Anniversary throughout 2022. MNA’s spirited founding generation pioneered the protection of critical habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species, establishing Michigan’s oldest land conservancy and the only one
that serves the entire state. They also laid the foundation for our remarkable sanctuary network, and thanks to supporters past and present, it now includes over 180 sanctuaries in 60 counties. For some plants and animals MNA protects the finest—and sometimes the only—remaining habitat. We protect Michigan nature, we protect it for everyone, and we strive to protect it forever.

Join the celebration by learning more about some of our historical milestones below, and watching our 70th Anniversary video!

Image showing timeline of events in Michigan Nature Association history.
Top to bottom: What started as a bird watching group in 1951 signs articles of incorporation in 1952. In the 1960s, the organization acquires its first 10 properties, including its first Upper Peninsula property. In the 1970s, MNA joins the “Save the Pines” campaign and acquires one of its crown jewels: the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. In the 1980s, Twin Waterfalls Memorial Plant Preserve becomes the 100th property protected by MNA. In the 1990s, MNA creates nearly 40 new nature sanctuaries that will become the most frequently visited. In the 2000s, MNA partners with the Michigan Karst Conservancy to protect the Mystery Valley Karst Preserve and Nature Sanctuary. In the 2010s, MNA is awarded accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, and earned its first renewal in 2019. In the 2020s, MNA joins the “Keep the U.P. Wild” Coalition, seeking wilderness designation for more than 40,000 acres of land in the Upper Peninsula. Today, MNA celebrates 70 years of protecting Michigan’s natural heritage.