Written by Corey Fyke
I know what you’re thinking.
“Ewwww! Bats are grooooooooosssssss!”
Well, can’t argue with that one. But aside from the grossness factor, there’s a whole lot you thought you knew about bats that isn’t true, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental protection (DEEP).
First, let’s tackle the most pervasive bat myth: They vant to suck your blood!
Not so, according to DEEP. Only three out of the nearly 1,000 species of bats are classified as vampire bats, and they are found only in Latin America and are parasites of birds and cattle. Connecticut has eight species.
So what about that bat that swooped in on you during your walk in the woods behind grandma’s house that one time? You know, the one that drove you — forgive me here — batty? Most likely, Mr. Batty McBatterson was looking for a healthy snack of an insect flying near you. Mosquitoes are a favorite delicacy.
Other fun facts about bats, courtesy of DEEP:
- Bats are not flying mice. They are the only mammal capable of true flight and are more closely related to primates (and people) than to rodents.
- Bats do not get caught in people’s hair. They are adept fliers and rely on sensitive sonar (echolocation) to navigate night skies.
- Bats are not blind. They have good eyesight, but rely on echolocation to master night flight.
- Bats are not filthy or covered with parasites. Clean wings are essential for executing intricate flight patterns, so bats spend great amounts of time grooming themselves.
- Worldwide there are almost 1,000 kinds of bats; Connecticut has only eight native species.
“Halloween is good time to dispel myths about bats,” said Rick Jacobson, Director of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Wildlife Division, in a press release. “Rather than harbingers of doom, they are a key part of healthy ecosystems and provide tremendous economic benefits to agriculture and forestry through their insect control abilities.”
But it’s not a good time to be a bat. Populations have been battered in the past four years by white-nose syndrome (WNS), which has killed thousands of the creatures in the state (and more than a million in the Northeast). The disease has spread to more than a dozen states and two Canadian provinces, causing widespread ecological havoc.
“Knowing why bats matter is an important first step in efforts to address this unprecedented mortality,” said Jenny Dickson, DEEP Wildlife Division Biologist, in the release.
The affected species are known as “cave bats,” and include little brown, northern long-eared, tri-colored (pipistrelle), big brown, and the Indiana bat (a federally endangered species). Since 2007, DEEP biologists have been monitoring hibernating bats for signs of WNS and document mortality. More info on white-nose syndrome and other conservation efforts can be found atwww.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome.
So give a bat a break this autumn, and help DEEP’s efforts to fight WNS by reporting all bats found outdoors from mid-November to mid-March. As colder weather sets in, bats should be hibernating, and if you see them clinging to the outside of a building or flying during the day during the late fall or winter, it could be a sign that WNS is at work.
DEEP requests that you include the date, the location and a description of what you observed (digital pictures are welcomed if you can take them!) if you see a bat from now till mid-March. You can submit them to the DEEP Wildlife Division by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods (860-675-8130) or Hartford offices (860-424-3011).