Misconceptions of Bats

Jilene Jensen, Staff Writer

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Bats are most commonly associated with Halloween and folklore. All bat species are associated with “vampire” bats. There are only three species of Vampire Bats. Bats are threatened and some species endangered due to habitat loss, building and development, Cat attacks, lighting, wind farms and wind turbines and white-nose syndrome. However due to fear bats are a very misunderstood creature. 

 

Bats and Rabies 

Bats get a bad name when it comes to rabies and take the blame for being a common species that has it. While bats can contract rabies it is only a very small percentage (less than 1%). Animals like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, skunks, and even cats and dogs are more common to contract rabies. According to an article from Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation,“I have personally documented instances in which thousands, even millions of bats have been burned in their caves due to misleading warnings that incite needless fear.” Wildlife expert’s and vets do not recommend handling wildlife in case of undetected bites. If bitten get vaccinated and get the animal tested for rabies. If a bat looks ill/malnourished it does not mean that they have rabies.

 

Bats Betting Tangled in Hair 

A myth along with the saying “blind as a bat” is not an accurate portrayal of them. Just like dolphins and porpoises, bats use echolocation to find food, as well as having incredible eyesight in low light levels allowing them to get not tangled in hair. If a bat swoops by it usually mean that there is a bug near you and using its echolocation it will know that you are there.

 

Bat Facts 

  1. Just like any animal, bats can be trained
    1. In zoos, bats are usually trained for health evaluations resulting in causing less stress on the animal. Target training and giving them their favorite food when they do what the trainers are teaching them are the methods used.
  2. There is a possibility that fruit bats/Flying Foxes are primates 
    1. Their brain has a similar structure of the neurons to the brain of both humans and primates, according to Bat Conservation International
  3. They can live up to 40 years
  4. Do used to be classified by their coat color

 

Why They Need Protection

  1. Bats keep bug populations to a minimum.
    1. Bats have a mosquito-based diet and can eat 6,000 to 8,000 bugs a night.
  2. They are pollinators
    1. Bats pollinate when they fly into a flowers trying to catch an insect 
  3. They are important to both urban areas and ecosystems
    1. Bats help spread pollen and keep bug populations down. Which saves 53 million dollars on pesticides each year.

 

Conservation 

If students want to get into bat conservation it would be helpful to know some of the Strategies used and how to get into the field before going into it. Some of the Conservation Strategies from Bat Conservation International:

  • Identify, prioritize and begin conserving the world’s most “ Significant Bat Areas.”
  • Respond strategically to broad, irreversible threats that impact bats at multiple locations around the world.
  • Create the first actionable global bat inventory and conservation database

 

How to Help them 

According to an article from the Oregon Zoo here are some things that students and their families can do to help. 

  • Build a Bat Box
    • A bat box/house is a wooden structure the size of a suite case that allows bats to roost during the day or hibernation and recover from an illness 
  • Go pesticide free
  • Leave snags standing