This is normally the time of year when you’d see adult bats and their pups flying around, said Scott Gibson, wildlife conservation biologist for the Southeastern Region of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). But that isn’t happening this year.
As some Moab residents have noted, the flitting, swooping shapes of bats have not been appearing at dusk like they normally do in the early part of the summer.
In an interview with the Moab Sun News, Gibson said that this is likely due to a delay in bats’ natural cycles.
“My hunch is that if you’re not seeing them in places that you’ve seen them in the past, it’s probably not a decline,” Gibson said. “It’s probably due to a delay in reproductive activity that we’ve seen across the western United States.”
He said bat reproduction appears to be delayed by about a month.
Gibson said this delay is because of the cooler, wetter spring, which also may be affecting when the bats are coming out of hibernation as well as their migration patterns.
“At this point, we don’t have any data to say that there’s anything going on with the bat population,” he said, adding that he participates in extensive monitoring of the region’s bats.
Gibson said it is likely that an increase in bat activity will occur later in the summer.
But that isn’t to say that Utah’s bats are in the clear.
A disease known as white-nose syndrome has been found in Wyoming. While there have not been any cases identified in Utah so far, Gibson said he is concerned that the disease is in a neighboring state.
White-nose syndrome has killed 7 million bats in the U.S. since its discovery in 2006, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, which calls the syndrome “one of the most destructive wildlife diseases in modern times.” The association says that the disease is spreading rapidly and has no cure, though a vaccine is being developed that may curb its impacts.
Gibson said DWR is planning a “bat night” in Moab later in the summer. The event will take place outdoors and the public will be invited. Further information will be published when available.