The Importance of the California Leaf-Nosed Bat and the Cargo Mine
The Underground Conservancy and Bat Conservation International have teamed together for the first time to protect what is one of the largest and most important roosts for the California leaf-nosed bat. The missions of both of these organizations includes protecting bats and their habitats. The shared goal of the organizations in this instance is to see the permanent, long lasting protection of the Cargo Muchacho Mine and the incredibly important colony of bats that call it home.
Why should you care? For starters, the California leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus californicus) is an integral part of the Mojave and Sonoran Desert ecosystems. This bat cruises low to the ground each night using its large eyes, keen eyesight, and excellent hearing to locate large types of insects such as centipedes, katydids, grasshoppers, beetles, and large moths to eat. They consume large quantities of these insects and hunt over a variety of desert terrain although dry desert washes seem to be favorite hunting grounds. Their broad wings enable them to fly slowly and maneuver quickly to catch their prey. The range of this species in the United States is extremely limited, being found only in southern California, southern Arizona, and a very small part of southern Nevada. These bats do not hibernate and thus are actively hunting year round. They prefer hot roosts which are often mines that were driven deep into the earth and contain some level of geothermal heating. This heat keeps the bats warm during the winter. They often roost in a series of mines, moving throughout the year during the course of seasons but in rare instances use one mine (such as the Cargo Muchacho) as their year round home. These bats give birth late spring and early summer and their young are volant (capable of flight) around August. California leaf-nosed bats do echolocate and are often found very deep into mines and caves in areas where the air is still and humid. The California leaf-nosed bat is one of 4 species of phyllostomids (leaf nosed bats) found in the US. The other 3 species are nectivores that pollinate agaves and columnar cacti. The modest nose leaf on this bat easily distinguishes it from other cave roosting bats in the US and it's large eyes and ears also make it one of the "cutest" bats too! Sadly, like many species bats, the California leaf-nosed bat is threatened by a multitude of issues. Habitat loss due to development of the desert, loss of roosts because of mine closures, indiscriminate shooting by thoughtless individuals, and high levels of disturbance in their roost sites by ill-informed explorers. This is where you come in!
To be frank, the Cargo Mine is a rare gem indeed. We've surveyed thousands of sites across this bat's range and have found precious few mines as important to this species as this one. To be sure, they need a diversity of mines across a landscape to help them not just persist but thrive. Protecting a "mother roost" like this one that sees year round use is imperative to helping conserve the species in its range. Large, multi-level mines are rare across the vast landscapes of the West which makes the mine all the more important to protect. Such mines also receive increasing exploration pressure without regard to the bats. Finally, the cultural heritage that can be protected by acquisition of a site like this cannot be understated. Mines such as this helped build entire regions of our great nation. Long after the last shift whistle blew and the miners left, the site has been watched after by its colony of bats. But now, they need our help. We want you to know that the Underground Conservancy and Bat Conservation International are leading the way in this conservation effort. Be a part of history, be a part of something grand, help conserve a special bat and an important roost.