Bats have had it rough. From being associated with the spooky story of Dracula (1897, Stoker) to being consistently characterized as blood suckers, the stigmas surrounding the species have been tough for them to shake. I’m not sure if Batman was trying to help make a case for bats or feed the stigma…that one is a little fuzzy. Those are just pop culture misnomers, there are plenty of real ways they’ve been shunned from the cuddly wildlife scenes. Rabies, living in our houses, dirty, get tangled in your hair, pests, attacking people.
- Now, less than 1% of bats have rabies, and other animals carry rabies as well–it was rabid wolf that bit Old Yeller, but wolves don’t need to take any more heat either. Be smart about wildlife you come in contact with, we don’t call it wild for no reason.
- Bats may seek shelter, especially in high population areas, inside a house–generally an old, wood-sided house and in areas where there are few trees for them to roost.
- It’s true, wild (and domestic) animals are dirty…just like we would be if no one had invented soap, shampoo, showering, etc.
- Getting tangled in hair sounds like a myth that was developed by someone who had a phobia associated with both bats and getting things caught in their hair. Bats are animals that fly at night, in the dark, they will no sooner fly into you (or your hair) than they’ll fly into a tree.
- Pest is a difficult word. You can use it for anything that bothers you. My sister was a pest when we were growing up…but everything has a purpose and labeling it a pest has a negative effect and leads many to disregard all of the qualities that give something it’s purpose.
- Attack? They’ll only attack you if you are a juicy insect, also see #4. A fish swam into my foot once, should I say that fish attack people?
Bats are amazing creatures–they are the only mammal capable of true flight. As a mammal, they have similarities to humans: long life span, few offspring, and their wings are actually modified hands. The last one there is pretty cool–when you look up close at the skeleton of a bat, the “arm” bones are all very short and the phalanges (bones of the fingers and hand) are elongated and modified. So, from #5, what is the purpose of a bat? Many are pollinators which is an incredibly important purpose, especially for us food mongers. It would be an enormous amount of work if we had to pollinate all our own food; luckily we have birds, butterflies, bees, and these lovely mammals to do the work for us. They are also excellent insect controls. The bat species in Michigan are all insectivores (something that eats insects, I’m sure you guessed). They can eat an incredible amount of mosquitoes, which I know are no one’s favorite neighbor. They disperse seeds. In areas of the world where bats eat fruit (generally tropical forests) they play a very important role in dispersing seeds to restore logged forest lands. So, will you help them breakthrough the negativity and into the light of cuddly wildlife that we revere and protect?
Bat educational programs are available from our Conservation Educator, Kelly Hansen. Visit our Education page to learn more or call for details, 231.839.7193.