I once shared my office with a bat. The little creature would fly in toward first light, circle around me as I typed away in the silence of morning, then hang in my storage closet until day’s end. When my husband discovered my friend, he conjured fears of rabies, fleas and feces. I gave in, reluctantly, and the bat had to find new sleeping quarters.
In the time the bat hung in my office, I read a lot about the flying mammals and realized what a blessing they are. We were on a farm. We needed bats to reduce the population of pests that feasted on our market gardens and livestock. They worked hard for us every night and asked nothing more than to be left alone.
Despite the myths about bats (blind, bloodsucking, hair tangling, rabid rodents), they are unbeatable eaters of pesky critters. Best of all, they work for free and do not harm the environment. No pesticide can make claims on either of those counts.
Scientists who study bats are making heartbreaking discoveries. This March, Canadian researchers waded through snow to check on 6,000 hibernating bats in New Brunswick. Last fall this was a healthy population. In March they found 1,200 corpses. A month later, 5,000 more were dead.
The deadly white-nose syndrome already swept through the eastern United States. Now bats in four Canadian provinces have added to a death toll that surpasses a million. Science News quotes Boston University biologist Thomas Kunz, who calls it “the most devastating wildlife disease in recorded history.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region via Flickr Creative Commons
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