Bats, like most wild animals, prefer to avoid interactions with humans. Only in certain cases, such as when they become trapped indoors or disoriented by disease, do bats sustain any contact with humans. While bats are occasionally dangerous to humans, we can also be dangerous to bats.
Not all bats live in caves. Some roost in trees all throughout the state. As we tear down trees and move into forested areas, bats lose their own homes. Bats who lose their homes or become disoriented may then invade our houses. Destroying habitats without offering an alternative creates tension between humans and wildlife. As long as we continue to change and move into their territory, we put these creatures at risk.
Bats can consume hundreds of insects in one night, but they also fertilize plants and spread seeds. Many of the bats in the United States function as natural insecticides, protecting both people and crops from destructive and disease-spreading bugs. Most people may not realize it, but bats are also the only consistent predator of insects that emerge at night. Personally, I prefer bats in the sky to combat the millions of insects that are born every year.
We can protect ourselves by protecting the bats. In general, bats as well as other wild animals can be protected by a reduction in the use of pesticide. Many families involve their children in bat preservation by building bat houses. If you want to protect the bats but do not want to become deeply involved, a small donation can be made to organizations such as Bat Conversation International. Before bat conservation can be effective, however, we must change our attitudes towards bats. Teaching others to respect these night-flying animals can save their lives.
Our protectors are under attack from disease. White nose syndrome, named because of the white fungus that grows on infected bats, is spreading rapidly across the United States. This disease is not yet understood, and it has already killed more than a million bats. Scientists believe the disease causes bats to wake more often during hibernation, depleting their winter reserves and resulting in starvation. A cure has not yet been discovered, and the problem is so severe that Congress has taken an interest in the research.
Scientists believe the disease may be spreading in two ways; from bat to bat, and by humans who visit both infected and uninfected caves. Many of the caves have been closed in Indiana due to this problem, but the closings are sometimes ignored by the public. If you plan on visiting any state parks this summer, please obey any cave closings. Information about cave closures can be found on the DNR website.
Bats benefit humans when we live in harmony together, but our current attitude and actions are endangering many bats. We must keep in mind that by protecting bats we are protecting ourselves.
Christa Braun is currently enrolled as a senior at IUPUI, and she has a passion for writing and animals.