Grand Canyon Bats
If you go caving in the Grand Canyon, you may not be aware of the hundreds of eyes that are gazing your way. Grand Canyon bats love the canyon’s caves, as they can seek refuge in these habitats on hot canyon summer days. The sheltered habitats provide a place for the animals to hibernate, as well as raise their young.
Different Bat Species in the Canyon
Twenty-two bat species live in Grand Canyon National Park. Probably because this part of the world offers the friendliest place for a bat to stay. Habitat loss continues to threaten bat populations, as well as the dreaded disease White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS develops by exposure to the fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans). The cold-loving spores attack bats while they hibernate.
The official scientific name of the bats in the Grand Canyon is the Order Chiroptera. All the bats are also part of the suborder Vespertilioniformes. Bats balance the ecosystem in the canyon by eating a variety of insects. The night-loving animals flap their wings throughout their flights, never gliding. You won’t see the cave dwellers during the day, but can encounter them if you go caving.
How Bats Live and Breed
Bats are not prolific breeders, as they normally only have one pup per year. To catch their insect prey, bats us echolocation for navigation. They echolocate insects by emitting a high-frequency call. They can determine the distance of their prey by the return of their echo. This form of capturing prey helps a bat to know the texture, size, and speed of the insects they catch.
When You Can Spot Them
In the Grand Canyon, the Canyon Bat (Parastrellus hesperus) is the most well-known. In fact, it makes its presence known by being the first species to appear at night, or during sunset. Some of the other bat species include the Mexican Long-Tongued Bat, the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat, the Big Free-Tailed Bat, and the Western Mastiff Bat. If you want to learn about bats, the Grand Canyon is the ideal place to do so.
Be Cautious of All Wildlife
The National Park Service has confirmed and documented the presence of rabies among bats in the park. Usually, in a colony of bats, under 1% of the animals are infected. Humans can get rabies from bats if they are bit or scratched. The disease is transmitted through the bat’s saliva.
While rabies is known to be fatal in humans, it can be totally prevented. Medical treatment consists of post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP. The treatment must be administered immediately to realize a successful outcome.
Visiting the Grand Canyon
When visiting Grand Canyon National Park, never touch or approach the wildlife. You should always view the animals from a safe and secure distance. Tell your children to notify you right away if they are bitten or scratched. If you experience contact with a bat or one of the other Grand Canyon animals, tell a park employee as soon as possible. If you river raft in the park, take extra precautions and always sleep covered in a tent, to protect yourself.