Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 665–697 | Cite as

Bat ecology and public health surveillance for rabies in an urbanizing region of Colorado

  • Thomas J. O’SheaEmail author
  • Daniel J. Neubaum
  • Melissa A. Neubaum
  • Paul M. Cryan
  • Laura E. Ellison
  • Thomas R. Stanley
  • Charles E. Rupprecht
  • W. John Pape
  • Richard A. Bowen


We describe use of Fort Collins, Colorado, and nearby areas by bats in 2001–2005, and link patterns in bat ecology with concurrent public health surveillance for rabies. Our analyses are based on evaluation of summary statistics, and information-theoretic support for results of simple logistic regression. Based on captures in mist nets, the city bat fauna differed from that of the adjacent mountains, and was dominated by big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). Species, age, and sex composition of bats submitted for rabies testing locally and along the urbanizing Front Range Corridor were similar to those of the mist-net captures and reflected the annual cycle of reproduction and activity of big brown bats. Few submissions occurred November- March, when these bats hibernated elsewhere. In summer females roosted in buildings in colonies and dominated health samples; fledging of young corresponded to a summer peak in health submissions with no increase in rabies prevalence. Roosting ecology of big brown bats in buildings was similar to that reported for natural sites, including colony size, roost-switching behavior, fidelity to roosts in a small area, and attributes important for roost selection. Attrition in roosts occurred from structural modifications of buildings to exclude colonies by citizens, but without major effects on long-term bat reproduction or survival. Bats foraged in areas set aside for nature conservation. A pattern of lower diversity in urban bat communities with dominance by big brown bats may occur widely in the USA, and is consistent with national public health records for rabies surveillance.


Bats Chiroptera Disease Public health Rabies Big brown bats 



We thank R. Nightwalker and S. Alexander of Larimer County Humane Society for access to bat nuisance records, G. Waidman of CDPHE for rabies diagnostics, and L. Ansell for administrative support. Field and laboratory assistance was given by S. Almon, J. Ammon, T. Barnes, J. Boland, L. Bonewell, M. Carson, K. Castle, S. Cooper, T. Dawes, D. Emptage, L. Galvin, D. Grossblat, M. Hayes, B. Iannone, E. Kennedy, R. Kerscher, J. LaPlante, H. Lookingbill, G. Nance, S. Neils, C. Newby, R. Pearce, V. Price, C. Reynolds, S. Smith, L. Taraba, J. Tharp, T. Torcoletti, and M. Vrabely. Planning suggestions were provided by D. Anderson, R. Reich, and J. Wimsatt. We thank D. George and E. Valdez for manuscript review and P. Stevens for encouragement. Support was provided by the US Geological Survey and a National Science Foundation Ecology of Infectious Diseases grant (0094959) to Colorado State University. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of trade or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the USA Government.

Supplementary material

11252_2011_182_MOESM1_ESM.doc (52 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. O’Shea
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel J. Neubaum
    • 2
  • Melissa A. Neubaum
    • 2
  • Paul M. Cryan
    • 1
  • Laura E. Ellison
    • 1
  • Thomas R. Stanley
    • 1
  • Charles E. Rupprecht
    • 3
  • W. John Pape
    • 4
  • Richard A. Bowen
    • 2
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science CenterFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Sciences, Animal Reproduction and Technology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Centers for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Colorado Department of Public Health and EnvironmentDenverUSA

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