Oregon bat wins BLM beauty contest

A photograph of William ShakespEAR, a Townsend’s big-eared bat from Butte Falls, Ore., won the annual Bureau of Land Management Bat Beauty Contest this year. It’s the second year in a row an Oregon bat took home the award.

Last year, the BLM named Barbara, a canyon bat from Lake County, the 2022 Bat Beauty Contest winner. Barbara was photographed by Kate Yates, BLM wildlife biologist.

William took home the crown on Oct. 31. after beating out Gizmo, an Allen’s big-eared bat, in the final round. William was photographed by Emma Busk, BLM wildlife technician, while Gizmo was photographed by Dillon Metcalfe from Bat Conservation International.

Each October, the BLM hosts a beauty contest to find the most stunning bat photographed on BLM public lands across the country. The event begins on October 24 and ends on Halloween. It also coincides with International Bat Week to raise awareness about bat conservation and their essential role in the natural world.

Busk photographed William last year while monitoring a Townsend’s big-eared maternity colony.

“William is actually a female,” Busk said. “Townsend’s big-eared bats form maternity colonies in the spring before they have their pups. Unlike other bats in Oregon, Townsend’s big-eared bats have very specialized habitat requirements. They need open space where they can roost in caves. Not disturbing bats when they’re hibernating is really important and will help keep Townsend’s big-eared bats healthy and thriving.”

Gizmo, an Allen’s big-eared bat, rests in mine crevice.

Townsend’s big-eared bats can be found throughout Oregon and Washington and are very vulnerable to human disturbance. Their numbers are declining, causing the species to be named an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species.

In an effort to help, BLM wildlife biologists perform regular checks on Oregon caves to keep an eye on bat populations and monitor for symptoms of white-nose syndrome, which can kill hibernating bats.

“It’s important that we fact check what we think we know about bats,” Busk said. “There are a lot of myths around bats, but they’re amazing wildlife and they contribute so much to our ecosystem.”

The BLM reminded readers that bats play an essential role in Oregon. All bats in the Pacific Northwest are insectivorous, meaning they rid our world of pests like mosquitos, beetles and moths. Just one bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour.

The BLM asked readers to avoid exploring mines and caves where bats may be hibernating during the winter, but enthusiasts can build bat houses in their own backyard.

“It’s a shelter that helps protect bats during the winter,” Busk said. “You can also make your garden more bat friendly by planting native flowers to attract insects and turning off any unnecessary lights. Light pollution is not great for bats.”

Want to get involved next year? Follow the Bureau of Land Management Oregon/Washington on Facebook (@BLMOregonAndWashington) or Instagram (@BLMOregonWashington).