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Posted: December 2, 2023

Bats need homes but they need the right homes

Finding the right home in today’s environment can be challenging, especially if you are a bat.

Certain bat species have adapted to human structures and may take up residence in homes, old buildings or other human-made structures.  But with new buildings often tightly sealed and older buildings being torn down or renovated, it is getting harder and harder for these bats to find suitable spaces.

That’s where artificial structures built specifically to accommodate bats can be useful in urban and rural areas where natural habitat features like old trees or rock crevices are scarce.  But as a new guide developed by Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (along with several other conservation partners) points out, these bats need a variety of housing approaches to meet their needs.

“For a long time, people have been encouraged to put up a bat box, but it is now understood that a single box is not enough to replace a lost building roost,” notes WCS Canada’s Western Bat Program Director Dr. Cori Lausen.

“In the wild, bats move around among different roosts, such as tree cavities and rock crevices, often moving every day to find the appropriate temperature they need. They often do the same within buildings – moving to cooler or warmer areas in response to changing weather. So we need to think about this when helping bats by creating artificial roost structures that let them find the ‘just right’ place to roost every day – what we call the ‘Goldilocks Approach’.”

The new guide gives conservation professionals, community organizations and individuals guidance on ensuring that bat houses and other structures will sustain bat populations that are often under enormous pressure from white-nose syndrome (an introduced disease that has devastated many bat populations), declines in insect populations due to pesticide use, and loss of habitat.

“Putting up a bat box no longer needs to be an individual pursuit – in fact, it can bring an entire neighbourhood together. If many families each contribute a slightly different style, colour, size or placement of bat box, then you will also create a neighbourhood for bats,” said Lausen.

The guide provides information about appropriate sizes for bat boxes, and also gives suggestions for alternative structures including ‘bat condos’ (think tiny homes on tall stilts), which provide myriad microclimates all in one structure.

“This guide is a comprehensive review of everything we know about building artificial roosting structures for bats,” says Susan Holroyd, WCS Canada Bat Program Manager and lead author of this U.S.-Canada Best Management Practices document.

Lead image: Bats need a variety of housing approaches to meet their needs. Photo by Sigi Liebmann

Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

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