Dedicated BLM wildlife biologist fought for bats

A Townsend’s big-eared bat hangs from a fixture in an abandoned mine. Photo by Jason Corbett.

As a young girl, Pam Riddle fell in love with animals. She developed a deep love for horses from a young age, and as she learned more about different animals, insects, and plants, she fell in love with the natural world. Pam decided to study wildlife biology in college, and went on to become a Wildlife Biologist for the Bureau of Land Management Moab Field Office in Utah. Sadly, she passed away in July 2022.

Jason Corbett, Bat Conservation International’s (BCI) Director of Habitat Protection and Restoration,  worked closely with Pam on a number of projects, and was inspired by her devotion to wildlife. He shares his memories of Pam:

One of the great pleasures of my work at BCI is all of the wonderful partners we get the opportunity to work with. Today, I just learned, one of these titans passed away.

A cluster of Townsend’s big-eared bats hibernate in a lower level of a mine on the Prescott National Forest, AZ. Photo by Jason Corbett.

Oftentimes people toil away at their job, doing their good work, and pushing ever forward. From the outside, it is work that could seem mundane, routine, or plain old boring. But, what if you got to see more? What if you’re in one of those small meetings where a person makes a stand and natural resources—in this case, bats—get a win? Well, in her honor, let me share with you my memories of just such a partner.

I first met Pam in late 2009. She called me up as she had just learned about the new partnership agreement BCI had with the Bureau, and she wanted to know what I knew about bats using abandoned uranium mines. She had caught wind of closures happening on uranium mines without bats being accounted for. 

The word on the street, at the time, was that uranium mines were bad for bats so they should all be closed. Pam challenged that convention and then set out to get answers. She got folks to hold off on closures, requested BCI conduct internal surveys of the mines to determine bat use and habitat characteristics, and pushed and pushed to ensure that bats were firmly considered within the abandoned uranium mine closure process.

The portal to an abandoned uranium mine near Moab, Utah. Photo by Jason Corbett

Over the years, she helped stand up and support a master’s project focused on determining the potential health effects on bats using the uranium mines (it was determined to be non-significant); and assisted with another graduate project determining the impact of bat gates, post closure, on bats. As a result of her interest in the topic, BCI launched into the world of working in abandoned uranium mines. 

Hundreds of roosts have been protected either directly, or indirectly, because of Pam. She did not stop there, however. Pam’s work with riparian areas, springs, and cattle tanks helped stabilize water sources for bats and all wildlife across that vast desert area. Her work on bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and a host of other wildlife benefited not just those animals, but the millions of people who visit the region each year, many hoping to catch even just a glimpse of such iconic wildlife.

She was gracious with her time, her knowledge, and her kind spirit. A model to emulate and a wonderful person to share a laugh with. For all that Pam was, she will always be, in my mind and heart, a stalwart champion and friend of bats. Thank you so much Pam. You’ll be greatly missed.”