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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

You have bats in your neighborhood. Really!!!

Whether you've seen them or not, it's almost certain that bats are in your neighborhood. Which is a very good thing, despite what old Hollywood fables proclaimed.

Mexican Freetail Bat
One healthy adult bat can catch and eat about 5000 flying insects per night. Pretty good for an animal about an inch-and-half long. We were just in Austin, and visited their urban bat colony; didn't see a single mosquito.

Bats hunt within a radius of about 40 miles. So a bat roosting in your neighborhood could be eating mosquitoes in Gainesville, Frisco, Graham or your back yard.

Actually bats are not rabies vectors. They don't carry rabies without getting very sick themselves. And if they're sick they can't fly or hunt food, and usually die in about a day.  Not much time to bite a human and transmit rabies. There is no plausible evidence of airborne rabies transmission by bats. To the contrary, they eat a lot of insects that do carry disease - like West Nile Virus.

Yes, bats have an image problem. If a colony of bats gets wiped out (for whatever reason) it's slow to repopulate. That's because each female has only one "pup" per year.

Bats like to be near water. That's because one can lose up to half its body weight through evaporation in a day. A dangerously dehydrated bat isn't able to catch many insects - if it's a female, she and her pups may die.

Austin's bats generate roughly $10-million a year. Does your neighborhood or city have a potential place for a bat colony? Bridge, tunnel, old overpass? Now's the time to start planning for next year.

     You may have noticed lots of activity at Hummingbird feeders too!  There's a lot more eating and sharing and a lot less fighting. It's working together toward the common goal of a successful migratory flight around the end of the month.  (maybe humans could learn something from this behavior)

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