NALZS is getting a little batty.

Let’s learn about the endangered bats that reside here in Northern Alabama!

Bats are earths only flying mammal and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Most bats are nocturnal and use echolocation to navigate and hunt at night eating insects, including many pest species. While others bat species are important pollinators and seed dispersers. They are an important part of our ecosystems.

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Bats are so cute, but what do they do?

       We know bees and butterflies are pollinators, but did you know that bats are too?! They can spread pollen when they eat nectar or by getting pollen stuck to their fur. Since bats live in caves and trees, they also aid in spreading seeds. Though the Indiana Bat munches on insects, they are still great to have around to keep pests under control!

     Bats are a part of complex cave ecosystems and they bring much needed balance. Many of these creatures can only survive within the cave, and they rely on nutrients carried into the cave by water or other animals. Bats benefit caves by providing important nutrients in their guano that support the growth of communities of cave organisms.

   Bats serve as the best pest control you could ask for! A majority of bats feast on insects. One bat can eat its weight (5-8 grams) in one night!  Farmers also enjoy having bats around because they don’t have to spend as much money on pesticides (which means cheaper and healthier produce for you). 

Have you heard of white-nose syndrome (WNS)?

     WNS is a fungal disease that is single handedly taking out the population of bats all over! Though not dangerous to humans, destroys bat populations while they sleep.

What causes WNS?

     It is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). Pd grows in cold, dark and damp places, such as caves. Pd spores can last a long time on surfaces such as clothes, shoes and outdoor gear, so even though people do not get white-nose syndrome, we can unknowingly move the fungus from one place to another. Pd causes changes in bats that make them become active more than usual and burn up fat they need to survive the winter. Bats with white-nose syndrome may do strange things like fly outside in the daytime or in the winter. 

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a sneaky killer. But how do you know if a bat has WNS? Physical characteristics of WNS is white fuzz on bats’ face. 

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Lets fight the bat stigma by busting some myths!

     Curiosity might kill the cat, but not the bat! Bats try to stay away from people. Which means they are not trying to use your hair to nest because they don’t make nests! If there are a lot of insects around it is more likely that a bat accidentally ran into you trying to get its dinner!

     Another silly myth we hear about bats is that they feast on human blood. No way! People are much too big! Some bats, like vampire bats, do eat blood, but they get their fix from cows. If a bat bites you, it could be out of fright or it is sick. 

     Do all bats have rabies? No, that is a huge myth! Less than 1% of bats have rabies, but bats that act strangely or contact humans are 10 times more likely to be sick with rabies.

     Have you heard that bats are blind? False! They are able to see just fine! They use echolocation to “see” during low light conditions such as dusk/dawn. 

Bats and echolocation:

Bats can see as well as humans however, they have evolved a sophisticated method of using sound that allows  them to navigate in the dark called echolocation.  Their ability to use echolocation has inspired humans to create technology that we use all the time. From sonar on ships to ultrasounds. The way bats fly has also inspired research about the structure of bat wings and the mechanics of bat flight.

What can we do to help? Try: 

🦇 providing bat houses on your property

🦇 plant gardens

🦇 report strange bat behavior to Fish & Wildlife Services

🦇 cleaning off your shoes and hiking equipment before going in caves and when you come out

🦇 avoid known bat habitats

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