Whenever we go camping in Oregon my kids are fascinated by the little wooded boxes hanging on trees that have “no bird hole.”
Well, that’s because they’re bat boxes! Bats are, in my opinion, some of the most interesting animals in the PNW. In the opinion of other (smarter) people, they are among the most crucial links in the PNW’s ecosystem.
Bats are the only remaining flying mammals on Earth. They navigate the world with echolocation and are the inspiration behind fictional vampires and at least two superheroes.
While these flying insectivores mystify most people in the states, residents of the Pacific Northwest view them as ecological neighbors.
The bats of the Pacific Northwest are a diverse range of 15 species, including silver-haired bats, Myotis bats, hoary bats, Long-legged Myotis, Silver-haired Bat, Keen’s Myotis, Little Brown Myotis, and Western Long-eared Myotis.
In this article, you will learn more about the bats found in the Pacific Northwest, their eating habits, and the period when they are most active. Whether you like to watch bats or simply want to avoid them, the information within this resource will be valuable to you.
What Kind of Bats Are in the Pacific Northwest?
Pacific Northwest is home to 15 different species of bats, most of which are classified as “Myotis”.
Myotis are also known as “mouse-eared” bats and are best known for their slender muzzles. Their flying membrane is more triangular and extends past their legs to the tip of their tails.
The bat species found in Pacific Northwest are:
- Pallid Bat – This bat has large pointed ears and pale fur.
- Silver-Haired Bats – These are the most common bats in the US forests and forest-adjacent areas.
- Long-Legged Myotis – These bats are brown and have round eats, alongside long limbs that are also responsible for their species’ name.
- Western Small-Footed Myotis – These are Cappucino-colored bats with black ears.
- Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat – As the species name suggests, these bats have disproportionately big ears. They have pale gray or brown fur.
- Spotted Bat – The spotted bat has big eats, unlike most PNW bats. Its spots are on each shoulder and its rump.
- Keen’s Myotis – This bat has dark-brown patches on its shoulder, pointy ears, and a triangular flying membrane.
- Big Brown Bat – The Big Brown bat has long brown fur and a dark muzzle that compliments its ears and flying membrane.
- Canyon Bat – This tiny bat has an abrupt and erratic flight pattern.
- Fringed Myotis – The color range of these bats is yellowish Brown to olive. These bats are among the larger Myotis in the PNW.
- California Myotis – These bats have pointy black ears that stand out against their generally pale brown color.
- Hoary Bat – The Hoary bat is quite territorial in its habitat and feeding place, which it keeps returning to.
- Yuma Myotis – These bats can live in deserts and near-frigid environments. In other words, they can be comfortable on the west coast as well as in northeast Oregon.
- Western Long-eared Myotis – These bats are hard to miss with long pointy ears. Their color scheme is similar to that of most pale-brown bats, but their slender, tall ears are hard to miss.
- Little Brown Myotis – This petite bat has hair on its toes and glossy fur that reflects light in midday but is quite matte at night.
What Kind of Bats Does Oregon Have?
Oregon has the biggest population of silver-haired bats, alongside a variety of Myotis bats and big brown bats.
California Myotis and Fringed Myotis are easier to spot, but you must be around where bats live or hunt to catch a glimpse.
Bats live in Oregon primarily because the state has plenty of people-free areas where they can rest undisturbed and reproduce without being attacked. Since bats don’t seek out humans, they aren’t considered an eradication-worthy threat by the Oregon municipal authorities.
Given their role as Oregon’s most significant pollinators, they have environmental and animal rights groups batting for them despite being the largest carriers of rabies in Oregon. Even after knowing this, if you want to go bat-watching, you’ll have better luck around the areas where they live.
Where Do Bats Live in Oregon?
Bats live all over the forest-covered regions of Oregon near freshwater sources. You can spot them most efficiently in areas where the road cuts through thick forests.
The big brown bat will be the easiest to spot as it is comfortable hanging around the forest edge.
You can expect Oregon bats to be in the following areas:
- Near streams of freshwater
- In trees at the edge of a road
- Near cliffs and canyons
- In forest clearings
You do not need to venture into bat caves to spot bats. In fact, going into caves can be dangerous because bats carry rabies. The best place to bat-watch is from inside a car or an RV.
What Kind of Bats Does Washington State Have?
Washington State has most of the migratory Myotis found in the Pacific Northwest. But the ones you will see around the populated areas are the little brown bat, the big brown bat, and California Myotis. These bats are relatively braver in that they don’t mind foraging past the forest and into the areas where humans live.
Aside from the bats that are seen flying around houses and Forest-side roads, 9 to 12 species are found in other areas of Washington. They all have similar hibernation patterns and preferences for being around water.
Hobbyist bat-spotters should know where to look if they want to see the shy bats.
Where Do Bats Live in Washington State?
If you’re looking for bats near Seattle, the tree cover near Freshwater Bay and Lake Washington is ideal for bats.
However, since bats live near forested regions with freshwater (the perfect description of the PNW…) they can be found throughout the state.
The closer that an area is to fresh water (which typically means more bugs), the higher the likelihood that there are bats inhabiting them. The echolocating calls of bats can be easily heard in the late evening around these areas.
Are The PNW’s Bats Dangerous to Humans?
If you are camping in the nature-rich areas of the Pacific Northwest, you’re very likely to encounter bats. In fact, bats are a common sight even in forest-adjacent towns and many Washington State and Oregon cities.
Given bats’ reputation for carrying rabies and connotations with vampires, you might wonder if bats are dangerous.
Bats are insectivores and do not attack humans for food. However, they can attack in self-defense, and since they carry rabies, such attacks can have serious consequences. It is advisable to avoid intruding into bats’ habitats.
What Time of Year Are Bats Most Active?
Whether you want to avoid bats or are interested in seeing them, you need to know two things: where they live and when they are most visible.
Their location is already covered earlier, which leaves behind the period when they are most active.
Bats are most active from May to September, with the highest activity being in July. Towards winter, most bat species hibernate. That said, most PNW bats don’t hibernate throughout the winter, and some can be seen flying in months as cold as November.
There are plenty of bats in the Pacific Northwest, but most share characteristics like sleeping habits, habitat preference, and hibernation periods.
Even though the Pacific Northwest is home to 15 species of bats, only the extroverted few fly around the human-inhabited areas. The rest stick around the freshwater sources in forests or near canyons.