Bats get a bad rap on Halloween. They're the ultimate symbol of spooky, creepy creatures that most people would rather not come across. But that's not fair! According to Christina Kocer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region, bats are among the most valuable animals on the planet. Christina says why, in this special guest post for the Big Green Purse community:
It’s almost Halloween, and that means zombies, witches and images of bats silhouetted against a full moon abound.
Encountering a zombie does not sit well with me, but bats are a different story. Despite their spooky image, bats are far from terrifying, and I can assure you, they really don’t want anything to do with your hair.
What DON'T bats do?
As long as we are clearing the air, bats will not fly into your hair; will not suck your blood; will not try to eat you alive; and will not chew through your siding, your shutters, or your attic vents. The claim that all bats are rabid is yet another fear perpetuated by popular media.
While it’s true that bats can carry rabies
, less than 1 percent of wild bats are actually infected with the disease. Even so, don’t go picking up any bats you might find on the ground. That bat may be sick or injured, and it won’t be worth the mandatory rabies shots you’ll have to get if you try to handle it. Call your local wildlife biologist for help.
If bats don't have rabies and aren’t going to attack me in my sleep, build nests in my hair, or try to eat my brains, what the heck are they, and what do they do?
What's COOL about bats?
Bats are mammals -- the only mammals capable of flight. They are covered in soft fur and give birth to live young (pups) which are nursed until they are old enough to venture out on their own.
Though some think they look like flying mice, they are not closely related to rodents. The bones in their wings are the same bones you have in your own hand.
Bats make up about one quarter of all mammals. They range from the world’s smallest mammal, the small bumblebee bat, to the large flying fox with its 6-foot wingspan. And they do a lot more than fly. They pollinate fruit plants and trees, help spread seeds around, and devour mosquitoes and other pesky insects. In fact, here in the Northeast U.S., our native bats are small, with most weighing about the same as a few pennies.
The thousands of insects they eat nightly
save farmers millions of dollars on insect control and crop damage. That makes bats our most organic form of insect control! These agile fliers are adept at navigating through thick forests in search of their insect prey, readily devouring the pests that eat our food crops and trees, and spread disease.
Bats are in DANGER
Unfortunately, bats have something to fear themselves – white-nose syndrome
, a rapidly spreading fungal disease that has resulted in the catastrophic decline of bats throughout eastern North America.
Over 5.7 million bats have already died, and because bats are long-lived and produce so few young, it will take many generations for populations to recover from this disease.
What can you DO?
While there is no reason for us to fear these beneficial critters, I admit, it’s unnerving to have a bat flying circles in your living room. But, if that happens to you, gather your wits, remember why bats are good, and help the little guy escape safely by opening a window so the bat can fly out.
Despite what you may have seen on TV, the world is a better place for everyone with bats in it.
Build a Bat House