February 21, 2016

Sign of the Bat

We moved to Lake Louise in 1992, which means we are about to embark on our 25th year of calling Banff National Park home.  We've lived through a quarter century of nature revelations, including the discovery of: a golden eagle flyway over the park; a grove of 1,000 year old whitebark pines; and the South American migration destination of the park's elusive black swifts.

At the latest meeting of the local naturalist's club, Parks Canada revealed Banff's most recent nature discovery: the first bat hibernaculum in the park!  A hibernaculum is a nifty scrabble word for a den, cave, or any other hibernation location.  Since bats are voracious bug eaters, come winter, they either have to fly far enough south to find flying insects, or find a cave to hole up in.

Bat (probably a little brown bat) hibernating in a cave in Banff
National Park.  Photo by Tim McAllister, Parks Canada
Last fall, the park started doing some cave surveys along the highway from Lake Louise to Jasper – the Icefields Parkway. In December, they stopped into a cave to replace the batteries on some of their monitoring equipment, and there, hanging on the wall, was a bat.

The identity of the bat is not known for certain, but the size suggests it is a little brown bat, one of seven species found in the park.  Bats are not everyone's cup of tea, but we thought this little guy or gal was pretty cute.  If you're bat-phobic, and we can't change your mind with a picture, it's worth remembering that bats eat their own body weight in insects each night, and that includes mosquitoes!  So here's a toast to both Banff's bats and the joy of discovery.  Who knows what nature will reveal next?