Oregon is home to 15 species of bats. While they are commonly feared by people for their leathery wings, sharp fangs and rat-like appearance, scientists at Oregon State University say that bats perform an important role in our local ecosystem by pollinating plants and handling pest control. Unlike vampire bats, which are known for drinking the blood of domesticated animals, Oregon’s species of bats are strictly insectivores, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says, consuming about 1,000 insects every hour.
“Yes, many people fear bats due to concerns about disease or vampirism,” Oregon State University says. “There are no vampire species in the U.S., and although bat populations can harbor rabies, transmission to humans is rare.”
Some of Oregon’s bats migrate south for the winter, while others stay put to hibernate until spring. Those that stick around can occasionally still be seen hunting during the fall months. OSU bat expert Sara Rose told KOIN 6 News that some of the best spots for bat watching include lakes, reservoirs, and canals in Eastern Oregon. In Central Oregon, bats can be seen and heard at Smith Rock State Park and the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint.
“The ones you can hear are spotted bats, though there are numerous other species that utilize those cliffs,” Rose said.
In the Portland area, bat seekers can check out a population of Townsend’s big-eared bats that live inside an old barn at the southern end of Milo McIver State Park. Recent efforts to patch up leaks in the historic barn have scared away some of the bats, Oregon State Parks spokesperson Stefanie Knowlton told KOIN 6 News. However, the site remains an excellent local sport for bat sightings.
“We have a historic barn at Milo McIver that bats love,” Knowlton said. “There is a bat trail that goes to the barn and so does the Homestead Trail. The barn is not open to the public, but [people] can see bats coming and going and there are a few informational panels about bats.”
Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve in Josephine County is a popular destination for bat sightings in Southern Oregon. While bat sightings are not guaranteed, the National Parks Service offers tours of the bat-filled caves Thursday through Monday until Nov. 5. The monument is closed during the winter months.
Those looking for a guaranteed bat experience can simply visit the Oregon Zoo, which houses straw-colored fruit bats and Rodrigues flying foxes. A zookeeper chat is held at the bat exhibit every day at 10:45 a.m.
- California myotis
- Western small-footed myotis
- Long-eared myotis
- Little brown bat
- Fringed myotis
- Long-legged myotis
- Yuma myotis
- Hoary bat
- Silver-haired bat
- Canyon bat
- Big brown bat
- Spotted bat
- Townsend’s big-eared bat
- Pallid bat
- Brazilian free-tailed bat