Bat Populations Are Dwindling, But We Can Still Save Them

Bats are a species that many people fear, but they are crucial in ecosystems around the world. So, any news that bat populations are shrinking should deeply concern us and spur us into taking action to save them. Luckily, there are ways we can help bats recover.

While we tend to focus on species such as whales, tigers, elephants, rhinos and eagles, we often forget that smaller creatures in our world also have a major impact on our daily lives. Like birds and bees, bats play a role in pollination and help control insect populations. In fact, we would not get to enjoy chocolate or tequila and many other consumables that we have taken for granted.

Climate change is already threatening to take things like chocolate away from us, losing bats would only make the day the chocolate disappears come even sooner.

Unfortunately, we are not only the cause of climate change, we’re the reason why the bat population is dwindling.

According to the Bat Conservation Trust:

Bat populations have declined considerably over the last century. Bats are still under threat from building and development work that affects roosts, loss of habitat, the severing of commuting routes by roads and threats in the home including cat attacks, flypaper and some chemical treatments of building materials. Other potential threats can include wind turbines and lighting if they are sited on key bat habitat on near roosts.

As a result, millions of bats have already been lost, but humans have the power and the responsibility to turn the tide, and experts have several suggestions to help, the first of which is to educate kids about bats from an early age so that we understand them and no longer fear them.

Indeed, learning about bats dispels fear of them and gets kids interested in helping them.

Schools and government agencies across the country do have teaching tools to achieve this goal.

“We have actual specimens of bats preserved for kids to see up close,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife communications manager Rachel Blomker said. “We’ve got bat skeletons, and it’s interesting a lot of folks think bats are like flying mice, but actually bats are more related to humans than to rodents. It’s really cool then to get kids thinking about the importance of bats and just keeping an eye out and being more aware of the need for bats.”

Another thing we can do is restore and preserve habitats, such as those important to hoary bat populations.

“If there’s one thing we could do to help hoary bats, it’s plant and preserve big cottonwoods along river valleys. That’s a habitat strategy that could be considered a mitigation to offset the kinds of losses going on,” Dr. Thomas Rodhouse, an Oregon State researcher who worked on a study on the decline of the specific bat species in the Pacific Northwest.

Other solutions include building bat houses on your property, which not only give bats a home but provides the added benefits of insect control and pollination as well as keeping bats out of your own home.

We could also install lights that don’t bother bats and cut down on noise pollution. As for wind turbines, there’s a solution to that being developed as well so we can still have clean energy while preventing bat deaths.

“We’ve done a lot of work trying to identify different solutions including determining if it’s possible to change the wind and wind turbine blade spin to reduce the number of fatalities,” Bat Conservation International chief scientist Dr. Winifred Frick says. “And technological solutions like acoustic deterrents that could potentially deter bats from flying near the turbine blades.”

But perhaps the best thing people can do is support conservation efforts and conservation organizations that are on the front lines of these efforts such as Bat Conservation International and the Bat Conservation Trust.

Bats need our help and we are the only ones who can give it. And we need to or we will lose more than just bats.

Featured Image: USFWS/Ann Froschauer/Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.
 

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