(Update: Adding video, comments from forest wildlife program manager)
'They do an incredible amount of good work for us, and whether you believe it or not , bats are all around us'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With winter just around the corner, bats in Central Oregon are beginning to hibernate. But once they awaken, the Deschutes National Forest has provided them with some new options to help them rest safely.
Artificial roosts have been installed in parts of the forest where snags, or trees that bats reside in, are limited.
“They’re attached to a live tree, and it gives bats a safe place to roost during the day,” Lauri Turner, forest wildlife program manager for the Deschutes National Forest, said Thursday.
Giving bats additional options for resting spots as their natural habitat decreases is important in helping preserve the flying mammals.
“They do an incredible amount of good work for us, and whether you believe it or not, bats are all around us,” Turner said.
The artificial roosts were first installed about five years ago, and results have varied in their use.
“Bats do use them, but they don’t seem to be taking the place of our natural structures on the landscape,” Turner said.
Turner added that doing what we can to preserve the natural habitats of bats live in is important.
Many species are declining, not only due to habitat loss, but also to diseases and human disturbances.
White nose syndrome, a deadly disease to bats has resulted in the loss of over 7 million bats in the last several years, according to Turner.
The disease has yet to be found in Central Oregon, but Turner suggested people disinfect clothing and gear used when visiting caves, as humans can spread the disease when visiting caves.
“We just ask people that they decontaminate their gear between visits or wear clothing or gear that has never been in a cave before,” Turner said.
Central Oregon also closes 13 of its caves each fall, to help provide a safe ecosystem for the bats who live there.
If bats are awakened early from hibernation, they most likely won’t survive.
“They are hungry, so they emerge from their hibernation -- and voila, it's winter out, there aren’t any insects. It can result in them freezing to death or starving to death,” Turner said.
Once bats do wake from a normal hibernation season and are back to looking for nightly rest places, Turner says incorporating a bat home into your backyard would be beneficial -- not only to them, but to the homeowner as well.
Turner says it might take some time for bats to get used to those homes as well.
“It might take a couple of years for them to recognize that it’s there, but they’re a great tool to have, to rid your yard of all those pests,” Turner said.