Bats: Friends not Foes!

If you were to ask the world’s general population to think of the first word that comes to mind when shown a picture of a bat, the results would probably be less than flattering. Evil, deception, fear, disease, death – these might be some of the more common, but thoroughly unjustified, results. Winged aerialists of the night, bats are among the most misrepresented and misunderstood animals in the world. It might be because most bats are nocturnal and are often only spotted during the night. It could also be due to the fact that bats often sleep in large Colonies, hanging upside down in dark, sinister-looking caves. Popular culture has also, undoubtedly, played a role in the misrepresentation of bats. Count Dracula himself, as portrayed in the novel by Bram Stoker, often preferred to take the shape of a bat to terrorize the villagers of Transylvania. The famous Batman chose his bat-like persona in order to strike fear into the hearts of the criminals he sought to protect his city from. And, of course, there are examples of tragic (though extremely rare) cases whereby human contact with bats has resulted in the transfer of disease, which often results in significant media coverage and subsequent fear within the general public. Whilst there are undoubtedly pre-cautions that need to be followed when dealing with bats, these fascinating creatures should be celebrated, not feared, for their undeniable contribution to human quality of life and in maintaining an intrinsically delicate ecological balance.

Benefits of Bats

Bats are the only true flying mammals in the world, and as such can be found in pretty much every region on Earth, save the Arctic and Antarctic. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind and use their eyesight and echolocation to navigate and hunt for food in the dark of night. As insectivores, most bats only eat insects and have become crucial in keeping bugs away from crops and farms. To put the prowess of these keen hunters into context, it has been estimated that a hungry bat can devour up to 3,000 insects in one night! Not only does this reduce the need for farmers to use pesticides, but it also helps manage the overpopulation of certain insect groups (including mosquitoes).

Bats also play a key role in the pollination of fruits and flowers around the world. Because they are only active at night, bats are often able to pollinate certain paler-colored plants that may have been overlooked by the daytime-active birds and insects. Bats are also invaluable for their role in spreading the seeds of trees and other plants. These expert fliers can cover up to 250 miles in a single night and carry and disperse seeds throughout a vast number of territories. Because of this, bats have been instrumental in reforesting areas that have been cleared of trees. It is often said that bats are one of the most valuable natural indicators of the health of our environment: bats will flourish when an ecosystem is healthy and stable!

WRA Provides Care

Of the 16 known bat species native to British Columbia, over half of them are considered to be species at risk (vulnerable or threatened of becoming extinct). Given the extremely important role bats play in controlling our insect population and spreading seeds and nutrients from wetlands to our forests, it is vital that we better understand bats and the mutually beneficial relationship that we must continue to have with these animals. It is estimated that only 0.5% of bats in BC carry rabies, and although caution should definitely be taken when in the proximity of a bat, they are not to be feared. Wildlife Rescue Association is dedicated to maintaining ecosystem balance and improving the welfare of animals, which includes bats in the region that have been injured and need care. We thank you for your continued support in helping us care for these guardians of the night!

 


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