Winter bat recordings

By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Bats are known as warm weather creatures, but did you know that they can be active throughout the winter? Biologists at the Montana Natural Heritage Program along with a coalition of partners have been monitoring bats year-round and have recorded their echolocations during some of the year’s coldest months.

The MSU Library’s new Acoustic Atlas received this January 4th, 2013 recording of a Big Brown Bat near the Continental Divide on the Big Hole River in southwest Montana. The original recording was above the range of human hearing, but was slowed down by 70% to make it audible.

Very little is known about bat behavior during the winter. Bats are much less energetic this time of year, but some species like the Big Brown Bat and Western Small-footed Myotis are known to venture out in search of water and may even be foraging during portions of the winter as well.

Biologists are monitoring bats in Montana to increase their understanding of both winter and summer roosts and baseline activities during typical hibernation periods. They hope to understand the health of Montana’s bat populations and assess potential threats such as white-nose syndrome. That disease has not yet reached Montana, but is devastating bat populations across North America.

Visit the Acoustic Atlas to hear the sounds of a wide range of animal species from Montana and the Western United States.

Sounds of the natural world: Acoustic Atlas

Bison in YellowstoneExperience the rumbling snorts of a Bison in Yellowstone. Hear the howl of the mighty grasshopper mouse, or tune into the mysterious underwater calls of frogs. Montana State University Library presents the Acoustic Atlas, a new online initiative featuring the sounds of some of the West’s most iconic species and places. The Acoustic Atlas will collect the sounds of Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, along with habitats and species from throughout the Western United States.

Join us to experience these exciting sounds at This new initiative officially launches at our Friends of MSU Library annual benefit dinner on Thursday, October 17th.

In its first stage, the Acoustic Atlas highlights selected recordings and features from our growing collection. As the project develops, the site will fill gaps in available recordings of regional species and will serve as a digital repository for bioacoustic and soundscape research.

The Atlas will:

  • Document natural soundscapes that are increasingly impeded by human activity and development;
  • Collaborate with researchers and educators in the biological sciences, media arts, human health, education, engineering, philosophy, and the social sciences; and
  • Connect people with the sounds of regional ecosystems and biodiversity.

Bull elk bugling.In the coming months, we will be adding many new recordings to this website. We invite you to listen to samples from the collection, as well as featured recordings from around the region.

Every natural environment — every ecosystem — has its own voice. Explore the fascinating sounds of the West with us as we work to preserve the voice of American wildlands.