Batty About Bats!


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 Bats are often given a “bat rap”… oops… “bad rap”, especially in the “Hallowe’en season”.  Once you start investigating them, however, you’ll find they are an intriguing mammal.  My own interest began when attending “nature talks” in Osoyoos, BC with my son. A friend of my mother owned a ranch and told us that she had bats in her barn.  The park naturalist was very excited when I told him, as he was doing a study of local bats.  That’s how my bat adventure began… 11:00pm one night, crammed in a car with 2 “grannies”, an enthusiastic parks employee, and one little boy, setting out in the dark... to hunt bats???

This was the first time I had ever seen a wild bat close up.  The naturalist captured what he identified as a “little brown” (Myotis lucifugus).  It had such a funny little face, soft fur, and beautifully thin wings of skin. Even Mum said it was cute!  I was lucky enough to get to hold it while the naturalist did his measurements and put a band on its leg. That was it… we were ALL hooked on bats!  Later on I discovered that what I had always thought were odd night swallows dipping and diving over the lake, were actually bats! Mum found several bats roosting in an outside
cupboard that year and we all rejoiced!  In the years to follow, we saw fewer and fewer, and wondered whether all the insecticides in the neighbouring orchards were at fault.

B.C. has about 17 species of bats, the most in Canada! All the species are protected by the provincial Wildlife Act. Some bats can live up to 30 years. They carry ticks and fleas like other mammals, but they groom themselves as often as a cat does. They can catch rabies, but they die quickly, and as a result only 3 people in BC have ever contracted rabies from them. (Note: never touch any sick animal!)  Bats provide a real service in helping to control the insect population; a single little brown bat may eat 600 insects an hour! Bats are nocturnal and use echolocation to capture their prey. They are not blind, and they do not get caught in people’s hair, although they may seem to swoop over your head… in order to scoop up the insects that your body warmth is attracting! 

When we begin a study of bats in the classroom, the students are always amazing that there are so many different species.  While most eat insects, a few eat fish or meat and some even are fruit-eaters.  Students are also surprised to hear that the vampire bat is actually very small (only 9cm long, weighing 2 oz.). It sneaks up on its victims by running along the ground, and it makes such a tiny cut that the animal doesn't even feel it. We are still happy to know this species doesn’t live here!

Our local Burke Mountain Naturalist Group has a wonderful Bat Monitoring Team dedicated to the conservation of local bats in British Columbia, Canada.  They provide many educational programs and field trips to enhance the understanding of these marvelous creatures.  https://www.burkemountainnaturalists.ca/?s=bats

There are many wonderful books and websites devoted to bats. Be sure to look for “Merlin Tuttle”, founder of Bat Conservation International, and fondly known as the true “Batman”!

 

Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation
https://www.merlintuttle.org
"Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation is the most recent contribution by Merlin Tuttle to the world of bats. With over 60 years of in-depth knowledge and experience Merlin Tuttle, renowned bat expert, educator and wildlife photographer founded MTBC with one true goal in mind; teaching the world to understand and appreciate their vital contributions."



Bats4Kids
I'm so glad the "Wayback Machine" has this on file!
https://web.archive.org/web/20170126231233/http://bats4kids.org:80/


Bats: Why Should You Care?
http://cccoe.net/bats/


Bat Conservation International
http://www.batcon.org/

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This page created March 2020.

 

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