Increased bat activity at urban water sources: implications for cross-species transmission of bat rabies to mesocarnivores

Lias A. Hastings, Carol L. Chambers, David L. Bergman, Tad C. Theimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined the potential for urban water sources, specifically golf course ponds, to act as centers for rabies transmission from bats to mesocarnivores in the arid southwestern United States where surface water is often limited. Because residential housing can act as den and roost sites for both mesocarnivores and bats, we also examined the effect of housing density around water sources on activity. Using ultrasonic acoustic recorders to assess bat activity and camera traps to estimate mesocarnivore activity, we compared 14 pairs of wet and dry locations over two years by surveying twice during the summer, once prior to summer monsoons and once during the monsoon season, when surface waters were more available. Number of calls for all bat species combined were greater at wet sites compared to dry sites and calls of two bat species often associated with rabies, big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) and silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), were recorded more at wet sites than dry sites in the monsoon season. In both years, raccoons (Procyon lotor) were photographed more often at wet sites while striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) and gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) were less likely to be detected at wet sites. Bat, fox and raccoon activity was not associated with housing density while striped skunks showed a positive correlation. Finally, we examined potential for contact between mesocarnivores and big brown bats, a species implicated in cross-species rabies transmission in our area, by combining call activity of this bat species and photo detections of mesocarnivores during individual hours of the night into a Potential Contact Index (PCI) and found no significant effect of season (pre-monsoon vs. monsoon), species, or treatment (dry versus wet) but did find a significant species by treatment interaction, with raccoon PCI 3–30 times higher at wet sites and no effect on the other two mesocarnivores’ PCI. Overall, we found higher activity of bats at urban waters could increase potential for cross-species transmission of rabies from bats to raccoons but not for gray foxes and striped skunks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-84
Number of pages10
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Bat activity
  • Big brown bat
  • Housing density
  • Mesocarnivores
  • Rabies
  • Urban water source

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Increased bat activity at urban water sources: implications for cross-species transmission of bat rabies to mesocarnivores'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this