Halloween is just around the corner so what better way to celebrate than with Bat Week! This year Bat Week is October 24th through 31st. Agencies and organizations in the United States and Canada unite in advocacy of over 1,000 known species of bats (Count Dracula would be proud!). Bats make up about 25% of all mammalian species and play important roles in the ecosystem such as facilitating plant pollination and regulating harmful insect numbers. Their innate echolocation ability is studied by scientists in an effort to understand similar functions in humans. In the past decade, bat populations have been drastically reduced by a disease that affects the muzzle and wings of bats called White-Nose Syndrome.

Catching a meal using echolocation. Picture by Jessica Nelson

At Shiloh National Military Park, we have studied and recorded nine species of bats. The most commonly captured species is the red bat, but we have also spotted the endangered gray and northern big-eared species as well as the rare southeastern myotis species. The park’s location in the Tennessee River Valley and the preservation of the bats’ habitat has helped bat populations thrive at Shiloh. Conservation initiatives have produced many professional strategies for aiding bat survival especially regarding efforts to eliminate White-Nose Syndrome, but these little critters can use all the help they can get.

Students from the University of Memphis examining bats at Shiloh National Military Park

Giving bats their best chance at survival is something YOU can be a part of too! Grab your friends and volunteer your efforts at a local invasive plant pull. Invasive plant species can lower the number of insects in an area which deprives bats of their preferred diet. Building bat houses and planting bat-friendly gardens can also benefit them. Most importantly, be responsible when visiting possible bat habitats such as caves. Always follow the guidelines to prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome. They can be found here. Advocating for bats can be a hobby or a full-time occupation, but every effort counts. Have a bat-tastic Bat Week everyone!