Red Rock Canyon is home to 17 species of bats. All are insect-eaters. These are the only mammal capable of true, although somewhat jittery, flight. While some folks think that bats are a close relative to rodents, these little flyers are actually more closely related to humans than rodents. Their “wing” is similar to a human hand, with the fingers extended and connected by webbed skin, and the “thumb” reduced to a knob or claw for crawling. The skin also connects the limbs and sometimes the tail to the body. They hang upside down because only their feet are unattached and free for grasping.
While they are not blind, bats navigate and hunt by means of echolocation. They send out a high-pitched squeak, which echoes off objects in front of them and is received by the bats’ large ears.
Bats live not only in caves, but in trees, rock crevices, cliff overhangs and abandoned mines, depending on the species. Most bats hibernate in the winter and it is important not to disturb brooding sites at this time.
Some of the more charismatic species are the following:
- Canyon bat (also known as western pipistrelle) (Parastrellus hesperus) – the most common species at Red Rock Canyon and one of the smallest in the United States.
- Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) – known for taking larger prey on the ground, like grasshoppers and scorpions.
- Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) – one species that migrates in the winter, there is a huge population throughout the southwest.