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SCV Outdoor Report: The Curious Case Of The Bat In The Belfrey

By Wendy Langhans:

When “Batty” took up residence on Carol’s front porch several weeks ago, she was only too pleased to have him there.  Like most of the bats that live in California (23 out of 24 species), “Batty” is an insectivore.  So the mosquitoes that used to buzz around Carol’s front bathroom are buzzing no more.  According to the California Department of Fish and Game, “just one of California's little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) can catch and eat 600 mosquitoes per hour.”  But there is one small problem - Batty sleeps in the eaves during the day and....according to Carol....has made a mess in the belfrey.

SCVOutdoor_IMG_7045

However, I’m not so sure that Batty is the culprit.  Let’s take a closer look at the evidence and see where that leads us.


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According to Carol’s eye-witness testimony, Batty roosts on the front porch during the day:  “Saw Batty the other night. He hugs the top of the alcove until people open bathroom windows to try and get a peek at him (her?). He usually flies out when the first person gets home at night...”  This is typical bat behavior - sleeping during the day and leaving their roost at dusk to hunt insects.  And bat droppings are known to collect beneath their roosting site.  But eye-witness accounts are often sketchy, especially under low light conditions.  Circumstantial evidence, yes; proof, no.

Do any bats roost near people?  Don’t bats live in caves?  According to the California Department of Fish and Game, “four of our 24 bat species regularly tolerate human presence and are commonly found in buildings: the Mexican free-tailed bat, the Yuma myotis (Myotis yumanensis), the little brown bat, and the big brown bat.”   OK - we’ve narrowed the possible suspects from 24 species down to 4 - corroborating evidence, but still no proof.

What does bat guano look like?  Here’s a closer look at the droppings in the jade plant, which is located just below the belfrey.

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I dunno - at first glance this looks alot like bird scat to me. Bird scat looks moist and blotchy, not dry.  Bat scat, on the other hand,

consists of “small, dry, oval pellets.”  They are easy to crush and contain small pieces of undigested insects.  So I guess there’s only one way to find out for sure - go over there and examine the guano with a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers.  The question is, do I really want to know badly enough?  Especially since infected bats are known to transmit rabies through their saliva.

Probably not.

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Upcoming Outdoor Events:

Saturday, December 18, 8:00-10:00 AM, Morning Bird Hike at Towsley Canyon. Bird walks during the holiday season have a long tradition including spotting and counting the local avian residents.  So bundle up the family and go to the park instead of the mall. Beginners welcome, bring binoculars.  For directions and trail maps, click here.

Saturday, December 18, 1:00-3:00 PM, Take the kids outside, while someone wraps their presents. Todays parks are the sum total of their parts.  Nowhere is that more evident than at Mentryville, where a glimpse into the past enhances our understanding of the park’s value today.  Meet at the parking lot.  For directions and trail maps, click here.

Trail Maintenance Schedule.  Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails.  Contact Steve at machiamist@aol.com for time and place.

Wednesday mornings, December 1, 8, 15, 22, & 29.

Saturday mornings, December 11.

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You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to www.LAMountains.com.

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