WASHINGTON — Bat Week is Oct. 24-31. This is a time of year where bats appear alongside scary characters as many of us celebrate Halloween nationwide. This is a reputation that isn’t deserved.
Bats aren’t scary. They’re mammals, and contrary to popular belief and to the way they look, they’re more closely related to humans than they are to rodents. There are no species in America that feed on blood, the three species out of the 1,300 worldwide that do, all live in Mexico—and feed mostly off of livestock.
Bats need our help now more than ever. With threats like habitat loss and white-nose syndrome—a devastating fungal infection that has killed millions of bats—bats face danger. Several American bat species are either threatened or endangered.
They also perform valuable services for us. They help control pest populations, and save farmers across the U.S. enormous amounts of money that might otherwise be spent on pesticide. There is a farmer in Georgia that has been able to abandon pesticides completely for his pecan farm, and instead built houses for thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats that pick the insects off his crops. Not only does this save money, it helps preserve the environment when toxic pesticides are used less and in lower quantities.
The Forest Service manages landscapes across the country for myriad purposes, while keeping plants, fish, and wildlife in mind. Bats are among these considerations and play an important role in forest and grassland management. The Forest Service manages more than 25,000 abandoned mines on National Forest System lands. Many of these abandoned mines have been fitted with “bat gates” that prevent accidents from people stumbling in, while allowing bats free access to come and go safely. This is just one example among many, including our contributions to white-nose syndrome research.
Bat Week is only a week, but bats need help all year round. Help dispel myths and share facts about the host of benefits they bring. This year, celebrate bats and what they do for our environment and our economy.