In Europe and Russia, bats are protected by legislation. In much of Europe, bat houses grace national forests and backyards, testament to an awareness of the benefits of bats, both practically and aesthetically.
In the U.S., only bat species that have been officially declared as threatened or endangered are protected by federal law. In some cases, such as the Indiana and gray bats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has initiated recovery efforts. Some caves used by these bats in winter have been protected by a combination of federal, state and local agencies and private organizations.
In Colorado, all 18 species of bats are classified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) as nongame mammals and are thus protected by law. Only bats creating a nuisance in dwellings can be legally killed. Remember, exclusion is the soundest long-term solution. CPW has funded extensive research on the Brazilian free-tailed bat colony in the San Luis Valley, as well as regional and statewide inventories, supported in part by the Division's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Income Tax Check off Program and Great Outdoors Colorado (lottery funds).
CPW initiated a bat conservation program in 1991, designed to protect the mines that provide important roosts for bats. This project is a unique partnership among CPW, the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology and volunteer citizens. Colorado's rich mining history has provided an abundance of abandoned mines. These mines represent a hazard to the general public. Toxic gases, rock-falls, cave-ins, falls and abandoned explosives represent dangerous conditions that can prove fatal. To protect the public, these mines are being closed by the Division of Minerals and Geology. Because some mines also provide roosting habitat for many species of bats, however, Colorado Parks and of Wildlife is evaluating the mines as bat habitat prior to closure.
Volunteers are key players in this effort. CPW sends teams of trained volunteers to mines determined to have potential as bat roosts. Volunteers use bat detectors and visual observations outside the mine entrances at night to document any bat activity associated with the mine. At no time are volunteers permitted to enter the mines. If bats are documented at the mine, CPW biologists return to conduct a capture survey. Bats are caught, identified, sexed and released, having provided enough information to determine what kind of roost occurs at the mine.
Mines found to harbor significant colonies of bats are protected by means of a "bat gate," which allows bats to continue to use a mine, but precludes entrance by people.