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Archive for January 19th, 2012

Deaths of millions of bats in U.S., Canada have ecological, economic impacts

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I do not like bats. Once, as a college student living in a third-floor apartment with no air-conditioning, a bat landed on me during a hot summer night. I fled my room, shrieking. Even today, on summer nights at my rural home, when bats fly low over my deck, I instinctively duck.

Bats have a bad rep. Think bat and you likely think bat with rabies. Think bat and you likely think dirty bat or bat as vampiric bloodsucker. Think bat and you likely think evil harbinger of doom and destruction. (Okay, that last one’s a tad over the top … but you get the idea.) Bats have fewer defenders than fear-laden critics.

But bats, the only mammal structurally capable of sustained flight, are just creatures with significant ecological — and economic — roles. Hate mosquitoes and other insects? They’re on the nighttime menu for bats. Like bees, many bats pollinate plants and spread seeds. Bat shit (sorry; bat guano) is rich in nitrogen and is a profitable fertilizer. Bats’ ability to navigate in the dark (echolocation) is a subject of significant scientific study.

But in the past five years, up to 6.7 million bats are estimated to have died in 16 states and Canada, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. Three species face extinction — the little brown bat, the northern long-eared bat and the tricolored bat. A malady called white-nose syndrome is killing them.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

January 19, 2012 at 10:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized