Friday, September 30, 2022

Nature At Risk: Why You Should Care About Bats

By Carol Hillestad for
Brodhead Watershed Association, Monroe County

Bats get a bad rap.  At Halloween, they’re trotted out as scary decorations. People spread myths about them; like all bats are rabid, blind, blood feeding flying rodents, and likely to fly into your hair. 

No, no, no, no, and no!

Bats are actually amazing mammals with well-developed eyes that have zero interest in people’s hair. There are 1,400 species of bats worldwide.  

Only three types, none of which live in North America, feed on blood, supplied mostly from livestock and birds.  Foxes and raccoons are far more likely to carry rabies than bats.  

In fact, bats do a lot of good for human beings.

Just one of our native little brown bats (myotis lucifugus) typically eats thousands of mosquitos, moths, and beetles in an evening. 

That protects people from bites and stings, and protects your garden and local farm crops from being eaten by those insects’ potential offspring — millions of grubs and caterpillars. 

Bats are estimated to save farmers at least $3.7 billion a year in pest control.

Alarmingly, populations of these useful, fascinating creatures have crashed by 90 percent since 2008, when the fungus that causes “white-nose syndrome” was found in Pennsylvania. 

Losing so many insect predators causes a cascade of problems — affecting forests, farms, and human health.

White-nose syndrome is believed to kill bats by increasing the amount of energy they use during winter hibernation. 

While hibernating, bats must ration how much energy they use, to survive without eating until spring. If they use up their limited energy reserves too quickly, many die. 

Scientists are working to find solutions. In the meantime, you can help.

Avoid spreading the fungus — stay out of caves and abandoned mines where bats hibernate. Nature organizations have put barred gates on important bat caves — obey signs and don’t enter these protected places. 

Around your home, leave bats alone and don’t disturb them. If a bat gets into the house, don’t panic, and don’t run for the broom. 

Close doors to other interior spaces, open windows and doors to the outside, and turn on all the lights. In most cases, the bat will find its way back outside. 

If it is exhausted, and roosts on a wall, cover the bat with a sturdy container and then slip a piece of stiff cardboard underneath as a lid. 

Take it outside and place it on a ledge, bench or rock (to fly, bats need to start from a height). 

Remove the cardboard. And pat yourself on the back for doing a good deed!

Resource Links:

-- White-Nose Syndrome Response Team

-- Game Commission - Bats Wildlife Note

Visit the Nature At Risk webpage for other articles in this series.

For more information on programs, initiatives and other upcoming events, visit the Brodhead Watershed Association website or Follow them on FacebookClick Here to sign up for regular updates from the Association.  Click Here to become a member.

Related Article:

-- Clean Water Is Up To You: Being A Master Watershed Steward: Do YOU Have What It Takes?  By Carol Hillestad for Brodhead Watershed Association, Monroe County  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 30, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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