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Uncover mysteries of region’s bat species

Local biologist hopes to engage community in citizen science

This article first appeared in The Juneau Empire on March 19, 2011

Courtesy of the National Park Service, California Myotis is one of the five species of bats found in Alaska.

by Amy Condra

Fruits and flowers ripen into lush, succulent shades, bodies of water, gleaming and still, trees swaying rhythmically across a sultry twilight — such images are the stuff of holiday brochures and postcards.

These scenes also depict an environment in which most of the world’s 1,000 species of bats live and thrive, where they have everything they need: seeds, insects and a variety of places to roost.

Although 70 percent of bat species choose to live in tropical climates, there are five species that call Southeast home: Keen’s long-eared bat, long-legged myotis, California bat, the silver-haired bat and the little brown bat.

The most common of these is the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus, which is the only bat species that not only resides here, but also ventures up to Southcentral and Interior Alaska. The little brown bat is about nine centimeters long, with fur ranging from cinnamon to dark brown and ears that, when laid forward, nearly reach the tip of the creature’s nose.

“It’s definitely a stretch for bats to survive and reproduce in this climate,” said Karen Blejwas, a regional biologist based in Juneau. “But obviously, some bat populations have done it.”

Blejwas, who works with the Wildlife Diversity Program at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, will be presenting “Bats in the Backyard: Flyers in the Forest” this Friday as part of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center’s Fireside Lecture Series.

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