Recently, one Ottawa newspaper presented a very negative view on bats and how they transmit disease. The article was an ignorant commentary on an ecologically important animal. They presented the upsurge in bat-related calls as people in our city are being “terrorized” by bats in their bedrooms. Not surprisingly the reporter had interviewed a company that specialized in pest removal. Unfortunately this article was the core headline on the front page of that day’s newspaper!
How do we educate people on bats and other not so cute animals? It has been said that once you understand why bats look so odd, then these strange animals become quite beautiful. They are the only mammals that can sustain flight. They use echolocation, the use of echoes to locate and identify objects around them. They can eat large amounts of insects, even fish, and in some cases they pollinate fruit trees. They are an important link in many ecosystems.
Locally we have started to research the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus). This solitary bat normally roosts on trees, hidden among foliage. Occasionally, it has been seen in caves with other bats. It prefers coniferous woodland but hunts over open areas or ponds. It hunts alone and its main food source is moths.
In our region some bats appear to be going extinct. White nose syndrome is a condition associated with the deaths of more than a million bats in eastern North America. This disease affects the bats ability to hibernate properly. Mortality rates of 90–100% have been observed in some caves. There are very few Canadian bat researchers and it is unlikely that bats will be protected any time soon because of their habit of hiding in people’s attics. Our local newspaper forgot to mention that some of our bat species are disappearing at an alarming rate.
So take the time to learn a bit more about bats. Check out Bat Conservation International at http://www.batcon.org/. You just might discover that, like humans, bats are complex, captivating creatures deserving of some respect! .