Euderma maculatum

Spotted bat
Michael Smith


The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks of Southern New Mexico is my preferred nesting and resting place. Along the Rio Grande valley’s irrigated farmlands on the west side of this pristine mountain region are abundant insect food sources, delicious moths once wings are ripped off as well as caddis flies and night-flying beetles. Bats farther north tell me that the Rio Grande’s valley originates in mountains near Silverton, Colorado, flows east toward Alamosa where it turns south toward New Mexico. This river and its valley form a natural boundary dividing New Mexico between east and west all the way south to El Paso, Texas. At El Paso the Rio Grande forms the national boundary between Mexico and the United States. Intelligent bats know this.


My species is listed by humans under phylum Chordata, classified as Mammalian, of the order Chiroptera, belonging to the Vespertilionidae family, and a genus that reflects my genius as Euderma maculatum. This identifies me as a spotted bat, the largest bat species in all of North America. My fur is long and silky. My ears are large so that acute auditory senses that control my sonar echolocation hear food fluttering in the night before my eyes see insects. My features include a weight between 16 to 20 grams, a 14-inch wingspan, and furry white spots cover my body. I have a cute black furry face. My goal or intentions are aimed at making my species better known by humans. Joel Aspah Allen, an ornithologist from Harvard University, was first in reporting on my species in 1892. That was before my birth. Since then, years later, Jennifer Gervais, professor of wildlife ecology at Oregon State University, has proven a reliable friend to my species and ways of life. Bat-lore among my species reminds us about Joel and Jennifer.


Spotted bats’ genius far exceeds the famous Brazilian Bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) and Fringed Bats (Myotis thysanodes) whose habitat is the Carlsbad Caverns National Park farther east from our beautiful region in south-central New Mexico. Those are show-off bats in contrast with our Euderma maculatum species whose intelligence is superior to those other bats. A few examples illustrate this contrast and comparison.


Inside the Carlsbad Caverns main entrance is a huge space called the Bat Cave. Human researchers estimate that over 50 percent of the 600,000 bats roosting in that cave during daylight hours are males. Outside among the cliffs and stony outcrops of the Guadalupe and Sacramento Mountains is where the majority females roost. Carlsbad Caverns bats must be shy about sexual reproductive processes, but we are exquisite sexual beings with strong libidos while attached to our diurnal roosts and while soaring in elliptical patterns of flight every night.


Carlsbad Caverns bats require moonlight for foraging, and our species forage well during moonless as well as during moonlit nights. Our feeding habits include long distance flights high into the Ponderosa Pines of the lofty Lincoln and Gila National Forests during summer months, while Carlsbad Cave bats prefer lingering longer at low elevations. We return before sunrise to our favored roosts by sonar echolocation. In contrast, Carlsbad Cave bats secrete a stinky scent from sebaceous glands smeared on roosting spots, which guides their olfactory senses in finding diurnal communal locations tight-packed by males and a few females.


In comparative terms, our species shares with those Carlsbad Cave bats threats from farm insecticides, losses in floral heterogeneity, and reduced water resources that deplete populations of tasty insects upon which we all forage. Likewise, we varied species of bats have a lifespan between 12 to 20 years, as long as food remains plentiful. We do share natural predators such as owls, hawks, and certain ground animals capable of climbing into our roosting areas, critters like opossums, skunks, raccoons, and some snakes. Human scientists are able to clock our ground speeds at around 160 kilometers per hour (99 miles per hour). We are quick and agile in flight.


Two human ideas need corrected. First, the slang “blind as a bat” is totally misinformed. Bats are not blind, unless a bat has a fungus attributed to Pseudogymnoascus destructans (white-nose syndrome fungus) that affects the nose and eyes. The majority of bats have a visual acuity three times better than humans with 20/20 vision. Another idea is that bat bites, which are rare, result in viral encephalitis called rabies. The truth is that bats contract rabies far less than other animals. Less than one-half of 1 percent of all bats might contract the disease. A wider variety of wild animals catch rabies from one another, including foxes, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes. Cats, dogs, and livestock can contract rabies. Bat-acquired rabies has a histological site limited to human skin epidermis and dermis, but carnivore-acquired bites spread the rabies virus into the blood stream due to the depth of teeth marks from larger critters. Rabies vaccines show wisdom. Euderma maculatum and other bat species are essential for ecological balances whenever and wherever discovered. This is fact, not theory or fiction. Intelligent bats understand this truth.




Michael Smith is a retired physician, Internal Medicine & Infectious Diseases specialist, a New Mexican from Las Cruces, born in 1946.  He is a 30-year U.S. Navy veteran, and a 16-year volunteer veteran of Doctors Without Borders, with whom he served in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda).  His interests in New Mexico are broad and life-long, and he makes his home in the Gila Mountain town of Silver City.