By Alexa PetersOctober is a time for bats. As the crisp fall air descends, plastic bats swing from trees and confectioners make treats in their little winged shapes. The little spooky creatures even have an entire week leading up to Halloween dedicated to them: International Bat Week. Yet they remain largely misunderstood.
Truth be told, bats are essential to humans; without them, we probably wouldnt have such things like avocados, chocolate, and tequila. Of the more than 1,390 species of bats throughout the world, Bat Conservation International considers many of them keystone species, because of their vital roles as seed dispersers and pollinators in our ecosystem.
Plus, insectivorous bats help control pesky insects like mosquitos, as well as beetles and moths that destroy crops. The bat conservation group estimates their value to agriculture may be as high as $53 billion a year. Still, the 15 species of bats regional to the Pacific Northwest are suffering.
Researchers at Oregon State University have published a new study showing that one, the hoary bat—named for its unique, frosted fur—has seen a steady population decline in the Pacific Northwest. Thats likely because of collisions with wind turbines. On top of that, some species, such as the little brown bat, have been decimated from a mysterious disease called White Nose Syndrome.
These issues are compounded by how few pups a bat has per year.So what to do about disappearing bats? Here are five suggestions from experts for recovering bat populations. 1. Educate About Bats, and Start Young Saving bats and preserving the multitude of benefits they bring has to start with the narrative we tell about them.
First we need to understand what they are—and what arent. Many see bats as flying rodents, when in fact these dog-faced mammals are closely related to humans. Their wings, in fact, are a variation on the human hand.We tend to avoid bats because we fear them – or at least fear what they might be carrying: rabies.
Yet, Dr. Thomas Rodhouse, lead researcher on the Oregon State study, says the risk of rabies is lower than you might think, especially if you learn the proper, respectful bat-handling techniques.A disproportionate fear of bats can also be addressed in how we educate children about them. With this in mind, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides education trunks that teachers and parents can rent.
We have actual specimens of bats preserved for kids to see up close, says Rachel Blomker, communications manager in public affairs for the department. Weve got bat skeletons, and its interesting a lot of folks think bats are like flying mice, but actually bats are more related to humans than to rodents.
. Its really cool then to get kids thinking about the importance of bats and just keeping an eye out and being more aware of the need for bats. 2. Recover and Preserve Bat.....