The BCI Subterranean Program improves the conservation and management of all bats that roost in mine and cave habitats, or are threatened in some way by the potential loss or disturbance of these resources.
In the Western United States, those bats most affected by mine closures are the federally endangered Lesser long-nosed bat, and such “species of concern” as the California leaf-nosed bat, cave myotis, Mexican free-tailed bat, and Townsend’s big-eared bat. The last of these, the Townsend’s, is by far the most frequently-encountered by BCI surveyors underground in the Western United States.
Most bats that benefit from our conservation efforts are insectivorous – they eat vast quantities of insects, including many agricultural and forest pests. Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas are home to three nectar-feeding bats (the lesser long-nosed bat, the Mexican long-nosed bat, and the long-tongued bat) that are extremely important to the pollination and life cycle of agaves, saguaros, and cacti, plants that in turn provide food and habitat to a wide range of species across the desert landscape.
Our efforts to conserve habitat for these bats throughout the west are based on a holistic understanding of ecosystem health, in which bats play a crucial role in preserving the integrity and versatility of the incredibly bio diverse ecosystems at the core of the Southwestern Deserts.
In addition to these “species of concern,” BCI Subterranean Surveyors routinely encounter the California myotis, the Western small-footed myotis, the Fringed Myotis, the Western Parastrelle (or canyon bat), and the Big Brown Bat while surveying abandoned mines and caves throughout the Western United States. More rarely, they encounter the Silver-haired bat, the Pallid bat, the Spotted Bat, and the Allen’s Lappet-Browed Bat as well. Since 2008, each of these species has been observed roosting within an abandoned mine at least once by surveyors.
And of course, there's always the occasional surprise!
Photos © Merlin D. Tuttle, Joseph Monfeli, BCI