Never have I ever seen a bat up close. At least until last week! I attended a workshop that was held right here at Lava Beds National Monument on field survey techniques to study bats. One of the survey techniques discussed during the workshop was mist-netting. Mist-netting relies on the element of surprise to capture bats in a wall of thin netting. Although I didn’t have my rabies vaccine and was unable to handle bats, I held the honor of being the data scribe. We noted the sex, age, and reproductive status of each captured bat. In addition, we measured the bat’s forearm length and body weight. Based on qualitative characteristics such as tail structure or fur, we were able to identify the species which each bat belonged. However, some bat species look so similar that the only way to decisively pinpoint their species is through acoustic identification. After releasing the captured bat, we recorded its echolocation calls and used software called SonoBatLIVE to automatically classify the bat based on the call characteristics. SonoBatLIVE is the same program I use during my Bat Walk interpretative programs so I was excited to see it in a different context.
I had heard the sharp chatters of over fifty bats tucked into a tight crevice. I had seen thousands of bats emerge out of a cave. But I was able to really get up close and personal with a bat even if I couldn’t physically touch it. By doing so, I busted the most widely held myth about bat: the belief that they aren’t cute. I call them ugly-cute. Like a pug or bulldog. Here’s to hoping that these photos can convince you!