The Bat’s Debacle and You
Snakes, black cats, ravens and crows—these are just some of the creatures who have been associated with the ominous and occult for centuries in lore, film, and especially religion. But between all the animals, beasts and insects alike, no others hold nocturnal reign like those belonging to the order Chiroptera.
There are currently over 1,200 recognized species of bats worldwide, most of which aren’t nearly as menacing as people make them out to be. In reality, most bats avoid human blood, and instead consume a large variety of insects. Mosquitoes and other undesirable bugs are common snacking, so in moon gardens, bats could be useful for pest control. Other bats consume fruit, but those tend to be the eating habits of species found in tropical regions. There are even pollinator bats, which enjoy both the pollen and nectar of different flower species.
Truthfully, bats aren’t a real nuisance, since they’d rather not interact with humans. Bats tend to keep to themselves, choosing between living in colonies and solitary living. The only problems with bats and humans are featured in rare cases, where these creatures harbor rabies. Although humans contracting rabies is extremely rare (statistics show only two deaths per year by rabies), they pose a particular threat to owners of livestock such as cattle. Also, if bats decide to nest in a person’s attic, their fecal matter when inhaled contain spores which can aggravate human lungs and bring about cancer. If you’re harboring bats, it’s in your best interest to call a pest-control service so they can safely remove them from your residence.
As adorable as bats are, they are suffering a great deal at the hands of both natural and man-made complications. Since 2006, white-nose syndrome has plagued bat populations in a rampant manner, potentially threatening all species it contacts. It’s caused by a fungus that’s not native to North America, yet found in caves across the country where bats would hibernate. Currently, there are certain species in particular that are being targeted, including big brown bats, tri-colored bats, silver haired bats and more. According to Bat Conservation International, if the fungus is not kept under control, previously common bats could well be on the path to endangerment and extinction soon. As of July 15th, The Nature Conservancy and Bat Conservation International have invested almost $100,000 towards research to combat the fungus.
Along with white-nose syndrome, man-made creations have been harming these guys as well. There has been talk of wind turbines killing avian creatures, and bats are no exception. Annually, over 600,000 bats die to the hands of turbines. To add insult to injury, recent studies have found that bat deaths in particular are not entirely accidental, but rather caused by “barotrauma”, a condition similar to when divers resurface from watery depths too quickly. When bats get too close to the turbines, the pressure exerted from the machines pop the bat’s lungs from the inside.
In countries such as the UK, bats are under strict protection, and fines up to £10,000 are administered if bats are killed. However, with these new revelations, wind farms must now find a way to minimize the staggering numbers of deaths. Since half of the bats dying are migratory, suggestions have been made to crank down the turbine speeds during migratory seasons as an effort to save more lives.
So I’m sure you’re wondering by now what you can do to aid these cuties, and you’ll be glad to know there’s quite a bit. The first obvious bit is to educate yourself about the problems bats are facing, and if you want to do even more research, get acquainted with the numerous bat conservation organizations that are local, regional, national and global. Bat Conservation International, the Organization for Bat Conservation, BatLife-Europe, the Australian Bat Society, African Bat Conservation, and the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit are all good places to start looking.
If you want to help some bats even more, and you live in an area where bats would live or migrate, you could build a bat house. Depending on where you live, there might be slight differences and requirements for the habitat, but the little guys would greatly appreciate the sanctuary. If you live in the city, or can’t accommodate them, that’s fine too—bat adoption is quite popular, reasonably priced and readily available.
So before you take to your next novel that features vampires who shape-shift and flit off, do take care to remember the bats. They require a safe, environmentally-sound atmosphere, and in these unstable times we need to protect as many species as possible, including our flying fox-y friends.