Bats find unfamiliar home in Alaska

Celebrate Bats on Oct. 28 at the Cordova Ranger District Office

By Matt Prinzing

For The Cordova Times

When just about everyone’s eyes in Cordova are fixated on fish hauls in the harbor or looking downstream for the first sockeye and coho runs of the summer, it seems foolish to ask locals “have you seen any bats lately?”

Even if anyone had, it would hardly compete with all the buzz about where the fish are swimming and how to get them into freezers. However, with how little is known about bats in Alaska, it’s likely that local reports of bats could lead to significant leaps in our understanding of their role here in the Chugach National Forest.

Over the past two years, researchers from University of Alaska Anchorage and the U.S. Forest Service have been conducting bat surveys across the Chugach National Forest in order to answer essential questions about how and why bats inhabit parts of the forest. The study continued this summer as Environment for the Americas intern Christine Smith and I, Student Conservation Association Matt Prinzing, deployed bioacoustic detectors throughout the forest to record bat echolocation.

Analysis of these recordings from previous years have shown that bats tend to use areas near streams, snags, rocky slopes, and moss balls. That’s right: bats use moss balls. While most people imagine bats hanging up in caves or, for some unfortunate folks, in their dark and creepy attic, bats are known for roosting on large clumps of moss, the very kind that can be found along Eyak River, Heney Ridge Trail, Power Creek, and almost anywhere else that has mature tree growth in the Cordova area.


The recordings from this year have yet to be analyzed, but the aim for this round of bat recording has been to increase bat encounters. Detectors were placed in areas that were ideal for bat activity (i.e. along streams with moss balls on the trees). The only known species of bat in the Chugach National Forest is the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), but researchers are not positive that they are the only species here. It is also unclear if the bats here hibernate, migrate, or survive the winter in human structures.

Observations will continue throughout the fall and will be showcased at the Bat Week Celebration hosted by the Chugach National Forest on October 28th. Get BATTY at the Cordova Ranger District Office (612 2nd Street-Cordova Alaska) on Friday, October 28 from 1-4 p.m. Check out what a “real” bat cave looks like and explore our bat detector.

Editor’s note: Matt Prinzing is a Student Conservation Association intern at the Cordova Ranger District of Chugach National Forest.