2023’s Best States for Bat Lovers

A crowd of enthusiasts line a bridge in Austin to view hundreds of bats in orange-tinted sky.

Which states are batty for our favorite flying mammals?

To mark Bat Week starting Oct. 24, Pest Gnome ranked 2023’s Best States for Bat Lovers.

We compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 3 categories. More specifically, we looked at each state’s number of bat species, viewing sites, bat rescues, and wind turbines, among 8 total metrics.

Fly through our ranking below. To learn how we ranked the states, see our methodology.

Contents

Rankings

See how each state and the District of Columbia fared in our ranking:

Top 5 Close Up

Check out the slideshow below for highlights on each of our top 5 states.

Trees line up before the Texas Capitol building on a clear blue day.
No. 1: Texas | Overall Score: 84.69

Number of Bat Species: 31 | Rank: No. 1
Number of Endangered Bat Species: 2 | Rank: No. 1 (tie)
Number of Bat Viewing Sites: 9 | Rank: No. 1
Number of Bat Walk Organizations: 63 | Rank: No. 1
Number of Bat Rescues: 18 | Rank: No. 3 (tie)

Local Tips: The Lone Star State is home to several iconic bat viewing sites. These include Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge and Bracken Cave Preserve — the world’s largest known bat colony — in San Antonio. 

Photo Credit: Kenneth Hagemeyer / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
A woman drives a red convertible down the road toward the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles
No. 2: California | Overall Score: 56.62

Number of Bat Species: 20 | Rank: No. 4
Number of Bat Viewing Sites: 2 | Rank: No. 2
Number of Bat Walk Organizations: 21 | Rank: No. 2
Average Google Searches for Bat-Related Terms Over Past 12 Months: 1,020| Rank: No. 1
Number of Bat Rescues: 49 | Rank: No. 1

Local Tips: Go for a Bat Walk and Talk to see Mexican free-tailed bats swarm out for their nightly bug chase at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. Or, head to Bear Gulch Cave to spy on a colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats.

Photo Credit: Daniel Semenov / Pexels / Pexels License
The Ohio Capitol building stands in Downtown Columbus.
No. 3: Ohio | Overall Score: 45.30

Number of Endangered Bat Species: 2 | Rank: No. 1 (tie)
Number of Bat Week Events: 1 | Rank: No. 1 (tie)
Average Google Searches for Bat-Related Terms Over Past 12 Months: 530 | Rank: No. 7
Number of Bat Rescues: 11 | Rank: No. 5
Number of Wind Turbines per Square Mile: 0.012 | Rank: No. 27

Local Tips: Go bat watching at Cuyahoga Valley National Park or celebrate them at the 2nd annual Ohio Bat Festival in Columbus. 

Photo Credit: Larry Syverson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Night falls behind the Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix.
No. 4: Arizona | Overall Score: 45.17

Number of Bat Species: 26 | Rank: No. 2
Number of Bat Walk Organizations: 4 | Rank: No. 7
Number of Bat Week Events: 1 | Rank: No. 1 (tie)
Number of Bat Rescues: 7 | Rank: No. 11
Number of Wind Turbines per Square Mile: 0.002 | Rank: No. 19

Local Tips: Between May and October, tens of thousands of migrating Mexican free-tailed bats take up residence in an unassuming flood control tunnel known as the Phoenix Bat Cave.

Spot several other species — including cave myotis and pipistrelle bats — at Colossal Cave State Park.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
Horse-drawn carriages and cars share the brick-paved streets leading to the Indiana State Capitol in Downtown Indianapolis.
No. 5: Indiana | Overall Score: 43.30

Number of Bat Species: 14 | Rank: No. 19
Number of Endangered Bat Species: 2 | Rank: No. 1 (tie)
Number of Bat Viewing Sites: 1 | Rank: No. 3
Number of Bat Week Events: 1 | Rank: No. 1 (tie)
Number of Bat Rescues: 11 | Rank: No. 5

Local Tips: Tour Wyandotte Cave, where Indiana bats were first recorded, and make plans to attend the state’s annual Bat Festival in Terre Haute.

Photo Credit: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Key Insights

Some bat species hibernate, but others migrate for the winter, which could explain the many species roosting across the South. Texas flew to the top of our ranking with a 28-point lead over the 2nd-battiest state, California. The Lone Star state is home to the most bat species, 31.

3 of the top 5 states — Texas, California, and Indiana (No. 5) — have abundant wind turbines, which are hazardous to their sizeable bat populations. High numbers of wind turbines sent Iowa (No. 49) and North Dakota (No. 48) to the bottom of our ranking, alongside Alaska (No. 50) and Hawaii (No. 51) with the fewest bat species to spot. 

10 states, including Tennessee (No. 12) and Alabama (No. 13), tied with 0 local bat rescues. Tennessee and Montana (No. 46) do not authorize licenses for bat rehabilitation. Meanwhile, California claimed the most bat rescues, 49, followed by Florida (No. 7), with 21

Ask The Experts

Whether you find them cute or creepy, bats play a key role in our ecosystem. 

We turned to a panel of experts to debunk myths and share wisdom about the plight of bats and how we can help them. Read their insights below.

  1. What are three misconceptions about bats? 
  2. With increasing rates of population loss, what are three issues impacting bat colonies in the U.S.?
  3. What are three ways the average person could help protect bats?
  4. What are your top three tips for people who are going bat watching for the first time?
Teresa Nichta
Outreach and Archive Manager
Brian Pope
Director Lubee Bat Conservancy
Kenneth Thomas Gioeli
Extension Agent IV/Natural Resources & Environment; Lead Florida Master Naturalist Instructor
Teresa Nichta
Outreach and Archive Manager
Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation

What are three misconceptions about bats?

  • Bats still have one of our planet’s finest records of living safely with humans. Bats harbor no more viruses than other animals. For anyone who simply doesn’t handle bats, the risk of contracting a disease from one is extremely remote. Learn the truth about bats on our website.
  • Bats have excellent eyesight, they’re not blind.
  • There are only three species of vampire bats and they only live in Latin America.

With increasing rates of population loss, what are three issues impacting bat colonies in the U.S.?

  • Fear is the greatest threat to bats, it leads to intolerance and killing.
  • Millions of bats are needlessly killed annually in the United States alone by careless operation of wind power facilities.
  • There is now unequivocal evidence that climate change and associated weather extremes are accelerating at unprecedented rates due to human activities.

What are three ways the average person could help protect bats?

  • Get a bat house. Use The Bat House Guide to find the most suitable one for you. If you don’t have a yard, you can be a leader in putting one up at your local garden, library, or community park.
  • Tell your friends and family about values of bats. Educating humans is one of the best ways to help bats.
  • Share Merlin Tuttle Bat Conservation resources, videos, and photos.

What are your top three tips for people who are going bat watching for the first time?

Just enjoy!

Brian Pope
Director Lubee Bat Conservancy
Lubee Bat Conservancy

What are three misconceptions about bats?

  • They’re blind.
  • They have rabies.
  • They get caught in your hair.

With increasing rates of population loss, what are three issues impacting bat colonies in the U.S.?

  • White-nose syndrome.
  • Habitat loss.
  • Roost disturbance.

What are three ways the average person could help protect bats?

  • Build a bat house.
  • Have a wildlife friendly yard.
  • Learn about bats/awareness.

What are your top three tips for people who are going bat watching for the first time?

  • Start looking towards the sky 10 minutes before sunset.
  • Look around for birds of prey.
  • Don’t open your mouth when looking up.
Kenneth Thomas Gioeli
Extension Agent IV/Natural Resources & Environment; Lead Florida Master Naturalist Instructor
University of Florida IFAS

What are three misconceptions about bats?

  • They don’t want to fly in your hair. People have often expressed this to me. There is nothing about your hair that is attracting bats.
  • They won’t bite you on the neck. Vampire bats are real, but they are found in Costa Rica and a few other Central and South American countries. They are not found in North America.
  • They are not blind. People often think bats are blind. In fact, they are not blind. However, they rely on their sophisticated sense of echolocation. We can’t normally hear their echolocation. This gives bats the ability to navigate at night and to find prey insects and eat them in mid-flight. In fact, I use devices called bat detectors that transmute their echolocation to sounds audible to people. When you hear a “raspberry” noise through a bat detector, that’s probably a bat eating an insect in mid-flight. I’m scheduled to bat detect tonight — provided the rain doesn’t shut it down.

With increasing rates of population loss, what are three issues impacting bat colonies in the U.S.?

  • White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease attacking bat populations. It is estimated that this disease has killed 5.7 million bats in the U.S. Tricolor bats (Perimyotis subflavus) and other bat species that hibernate in caves are especially susceptible to this fatal disease. Several bat species in North Florida hibernate in caves. Florida Fish and Wildlife has published information indicating that while our cave hibernating bats are at risk, so far there are no indications its spread to Florida. Biologists are monitoring the situation. Bats in central and south Florida do not hibernate in caves and can be active year-round.
  • Habitat loss is another obvious problem. Bats in South Florida where I live and work do not live in caves. Our bats will live in vegetation such as wilted palm fronds and other tree roosts. I have found that Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in South Florida have adapted to human development; however, there are conflicts that arise when they take residence in bridges and buildings.
  • Bat exclusion from buildings is illegal in Florida during bat maternity season. Exclusion can be fatal especially when young pups are isolated from their mothers. Pups rely on their mothers for nursing and can starve to death. I wrote a blog about this issue.

What are three ways the average person could help protect bats?

  • Become educated about bat facts vs. myths. Understand that there may be differences between the general information about bats that is readily available and what is factual for the bat populations in your area. For example, you might find information about bats as mosquito eaters; however, in my area of South Florida, mosquitoes are not high on their dietary preferences. People in South Florida will put up bat houses with the misconception that they will significantly reduce mosquitoes in an area. That’s just not factual. This has been confirmed by my colleagues at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Lab in Vero Beach.
  • If bats take up residence in bridges and buildings and become an unsanitary nuisance, they can be safely excluded by trained experts using excluder devices. This involves the use of screens and other devices to safely block bats from returning to their roosts. This process is only legal outside Florida bat maternity season.
  • Bat houses can be alternative habitat for bats; however, as they say in that Kevin Costner movie “Build it and they will come.” I would modify that and say for bats “Build it and they MIGHT come.” Also assess where you install your bat house and why you are using it. I do not typically recommend that people install bat houses near human dwellings. They are likely best in natural areas to avoid the possibility of bats spreading into homes and office buildings.

What are your top three tips for people who are going bat watching for the first time?

  • Use a bat detector. These are devices that can help you detect bat echolocation at night. Remember that bats have dark bodies. Its difficult to see them at night on nature trails, so these bat detectors are the way to go. Depending on the type of bat detector you use, you can scan frequencies and match up the bat echolocation with the species of bats in the area.
  • Use mosquito repellent containing DEET. If you are bat detecting on dark trails at night, the last thing you want to worry about is being bitten by mosquitoes. Long sleeve shirts, long pants, closed toe shoes are also helpful.
  • Do not stand directly under a bat bridge and look up with your mouth open. As bats leave the roost, they will expel their guano to lighten the load before flying. I think I’ll leave it at that and let you visualize the possibilities.
  • One important point. Never, ever hold a bat. Bats can contract the rabies virus and transmit it to people through infected guano, saliva, and other bodily fluids. If there is a way to work that into the story, please do so.

I also want to mention that we have accessed bat guano for its fertilizer properties. That information should be considered site-specific to our study area in Fort Pierce (South East Florida).

Behind the Ranking

First, we determined the factors (metrics) that are most relevant to rank the Best States for Bat Lovers. We then assigned a weight to each factor based on its importance and grouped those factors into 3 categories: Bat Species, Community, and Bat Protection. The categories, factors, and their weights are listed in the table below.

For each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, we then gathered data on each factor from the sources listed below the table.

Finally, we calculated scores (out of 100 points) for each state to determine its rank in each factor, each category, and overall. A state’s Overall Score is the average of its scores across all factors and categories. The highest Overall Score ranked “Best” (No. 1) and the lowest “Worst” (No. 51). 

  • The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 51 due to ties.
  • “Number of Bat Rescues” includes local rehabilitators recommended by Bat World Sanctuary.
  • Google Ads keywords collected include: “bat viewing near me,” “bat caves near me,” “bat box,” “why are bats important,” “bat sanctuary,” and “how to help bats.”

Sources: Bat Conservation International, Bat Week, Google Ads, U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Department of the Interior

Final Thoughts 

Bats may be celebrated most in October during Bat Week, Bat Appreciation Month, and Halloween, but many revere these furry, winged creatures throughout the year for their efforts in pest control, pollination, and seed scattering. 

Why Are Bats Important?

  • Bats in the U.S. save farmers an estimated $23 billion annually through their pest control efforts.
  • Without bats, we would not be able to enjoy plants like organ pipe and saguaro cacti and agave — or tequila, which is made from agave.
  • Research has shown that some bat species can disperse seeds more efficiently than bird species.

Flying Into Trouble

According to experts, bats are vital to our existence, and they need our help. 

Green energy helps reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuels, but wind turbines result in the demise of around 880,000 bats in the U.S. each year. Researchers claim that the hoary bat population in North America could be diminished by 50% over the next 5 years due to wind energy expansion. 

Green energy isn’t necessarily bad for bats. Innovative measures — like ultraviolet lights and adjusting turbine speeds — are being explored to help protect bats from wind farms while ensuring the turbines can continue to operate. Additionally, nearly 20,000 bats have taken residence in a hydroelectric dam in Michigan.

Bat Exclusion at Home

Bats might not seem so helpful if they decide to roost in your attic. If you discover bats in your house, rely on a trained expert for humane bat exclusion. Even with the best intentions, helping wildlife can be dangerous or even illegal, and endangered bat species require special permits for handling and rehabilitation. Stay on the safe side and let Pest Gnome connect you with a local pro to take care of it for you.

If there’s only one bat, you can likely get rid of it yourself — just be sure to check your local laws regarding bat handling beforehand. 

Give bats a better option in your backyard by building a bat house. You might even try installing an ultraviolet light nearby to attract bugs, creating a “bat buffet.”

Where You Can See Bats

Celebrate Bat Week by attending an event or making a trip to your nearest bat viewing site. If there are no Bat Week events near you, check out this 360-degree recording of the Bracken Bat Cave “batnado,” or enjoy livestream bat cams featuring fruit bats and microbats rehabilitating in a sanctuary. 

What is Pest Gnome?

Pest Gnome — part of the Home Gnome family of home service sites — puts local pest control experts at your fingertips. We connect you to the best local pros to get the job done quickly.

Main Photo Credit: Dilini Galanga / Canva Pro / Canva License

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate of the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.