"Bats of the Midnight Sun"

"Active in daylight during the Arctic summer and hibernating during the long winter nights, Alaska’s little brown bats are a unique population. Can their niche lives help them avoid white-nose syndrome?"

"In late July, dozens of brown bears congregate at Brooks Falls, in Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula, to gorge on sockeye salmon catapulting their bright red bodies upstream to reach their spawning waters.

Enchanted, I stand with a crowd of tourists on a wooden viewing platform, observing as dominant bears score spots at the top of the falls, and leggy subadults patrol the banks for leftover carcasses. A 350-kilogram male submerges in the frothy pool of water beneath the falls, surfacing with a salmon 10 seconds later. He clutches the fish between his two front paws, as if praying, then skins it whole.

I’ve always dreamed of traveling to see the bears of Brooks Falls, a destination for up to 37,000 visitors each year. But I’ve come now for a much smaller, lesser-known mammal—one that will take the stage when the sun sets and the dusky, dying light calls forth a groundswell of mosquitoes.

Meet Myotis lucifugus, commonly referred to as the little brown bat. Or, as chiropterologist (bat researcher) Jesika Reimer fondly calls it, “the flying brown bear.” Little brown bats share many similar physiological and behavioral traits with Ursus arctos. Both are slow-reproducing mammals that can live for many decades in the wild. Both feed in a frenzy through the summer and autumn months to prepare for a winter in torpor, a state of metabolic rest. Yet the little brown bat weighs less than 10 grams."

Trina Moyles reports for Hakai magazine with photos by Michael Code March 12, 2024.

Source: Hakai, 03/13/2024