Bats are Essential to our Ecosystem

There are eight species of bats in the Chicago region and 13 species of bats in Illinois. Pictured is the hoary bat.

To promote and assist bats Friends declared June Bat Month in the Chicago-Calumet River watershed. In our region, the peak season for bats is June and July so it is the perfect time to celebrate this fascinating animal. Migratory bats have returned; others have come out of hibernation, and their food source – insects – is plentiful. They are fun to see, provide important benefits, and with over 1,400 hundred species worldwide, it is time to start adding bats to your “life list.”

“Bats are fascinating mammals that are often misunderstood, underestimated and undervalued,” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River. “They are an essential part of our ecosystem and good indicators of environmental health however they are at conservation risk. We are committed to helping them thrive.

Our plan is to dispel myths and misunderstandings, and share why bats are a wonderful, needed, and important part of the ecosystem. All month we will share information about the world’s only flying mammal on Friends’ social media channels – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as our Inside, Out and About podcast.”

There are eight species of bats in the Chicago region and 13 species of bats in Illinois. Worldwide, nearly 200 bat species in more than 60 countries are considered threatened according to Bat Conservation International. Friends is part of a group of volunteer community scientists who are currently contributing to vital data collection about bats in our region using acoustic monitoring. The volunteers are trained to use equipment and walk transects after dusk when bats are out feeding. The protocol for community scientists was developed at the Urban Wildlife Institute of Lincoln Park Zoo and the Illinois Bat Working Group. Friends of the Chicago River, in partnership with the Cook County Forest Preserves, has also installed six bat maternity colonies in river-edge forest preserves, a kind of nursery on 12-foot-tall stilts large enough for thousands of bats and their pups and is restoring native landscape healthy to insects and the river system which is important too.

Have a question about bats? Send us an email at and share your bat stories and photos too.