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We’re back with more exciting wildlife news: our partners at the Western Cave Conservancy discovered a colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii) on POST-protected land in the Santa Cruz Mountains! The bat survey found two roosting sites, each with a healthy population of C. townsendii and a handful of other local bat species. The Santa Cruz Mountains bats were back in town for the second year in a row, indicating that the colony and the forest that it calls home are both thriving.
The gigantic ears that give the bats their name provide them with excellent hearing and assist with temperature regulation. Plus, they look awesome – when resting, the bats curl up their ears into coils that look like tiny ram’s horns. C. townsendii are unique in that they form maternity roosts each summer, where large groups of females gather together to give birth and raise their young.
Because these roosts are very sensitive to disturbance and the bats only give birth to one baby at a time, C. townsendii are rare and getting rarer. Continued habitat loss and an epidemic of white-nose fungus that has ravaged bat populations nationwide has halved the total population of Townsend’s big-eared bats since the 1980s.
Only a handful of C. townsendii colonies have been located in California. Others exist across the United States and Canada, but their populations are small. While not yet on the Endangered Species list, they have been designated as a Species of Special Concern since 2013. Lucky for them (and us!), they prefer caves in mountainous, forested areas — exactly like the Santa Cruz Mountains that POST works to protect.
While the recently-discovered colonies of C. townsendii live on land that’s not yet open to the public, if you want to learn more about the bats in their natural habitat, you’re in luck! Bring your binoculars to the POST-protected David C. Daniels Nature Center at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve for our partner Midpen’s The Bats at Alpine Pond event the evening of Saturday, August 29. Until then, keep your eyes on the skies!
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 76,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.