Keeping bats safe from you
Bats are a very important part of our ecosystem. They are the primary predator of a vast number of pests that cost farmers and foresters billions of dollars annually. Bats also pollinate flowers and disperse seeds that make the rain forest grows and the deserts bloom. Wherever they are, they are critical elements to the health of our natural resources.
But bats, too, have a bad reputation among some people. They are often associated with vampires and are feared carriers of rabies. However, few people will ever be exposed to a rabies-suspect animal or need medical intervention due to potential exposure while camping. In fact, most bats don’t have rabies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the outdoors, bats use trees, cliffs, caves, buildings, water, bridges and mineshafts in a variety of habitats. Seeing bats outdoors is common. If you notice bats where you are recreating, you should
- avoid any physical contact;
- use screens or mosquito netting to prevent them from getting into your outdoor living space; and
- do not touch a bat that cannot fly, see during the day, or flying in the winter; that bat might be sick. Stay away but also notify a forest ranger.
When it comes to bats, the biggest threat could be you.
In many national forests and grasslands, caves are off limits because millions of bats are dying from white-nose syndrome. Scientists believe the disease has caused the most dramatic decline of North American wildlife in more than 100 years.
The disease is spread from bat-to-bat, from soil to bat and from humans through transmission of spores on clothing and equipment.
Here is how you can help bats:
- Stay out of caves and mines where bats are hibernating and honor cave closings.
- Following the National WNS Decontamination Protocol to clean and disinfect clothes, footwear, and equipment used in caves or mines.
- Report bats showing signs of white-nose syndrome, and bats that are dead, dying, or appear diseased, to a forest ranger.
- Spread the word about the need to save our bats.
Sources: U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Centers for Disease Control
Remember: You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of those around you.