With Halloween around the corner, it’s fitting that October is Bat Month! This is a way to raise awareness and interest in bats and show the public that bats aren’t always deserving of their bad rap.
Jamie Nobles, Ruffner Mountain Conservation Director said, “They are really important to our environment. They eat tons and tons of insects, they save us a lot of money in our agricultural field just because of the number of insects they eat. They make it more pleasant to be out because if they weren’t out we’d have a lot more insects around.” Bats also play an important role in plant pollination.
“Rabies is something serious that bats can carry. It’s estimated that probably less than 3% actually have rabies. But, you may not see symptoms of rabies in a bat. So, make sure that you always call a professional to evaluate that. You should never just pick up a bat. There are some people that are trained in how to remove bats and handle bats,” Nobles said.
Bat populations are being threatened, in particular by White Nose Syndrome. “The fungus grows on the skin, usually the nose and it makes this white fuzziness on the bat’s nose. It can grow on ears, skin as well. It basically acts as an irritate. So, while they are hibernating and they’ve dropped their body temperature, everything is low levels- their energy level is very low, and what this does is acts as an irritant. [It] makes them scratch and fly around, basically losing their fat reserves in the winter time and ultimately kill them just from that,” Nobles said.
The Gray Bat is an endangered species in Alabama. There are only a few thousand left in our area. Conservation efforts are underway at Ruffner Mountain to make sure bat habits are protected. Just like us, bats are feeling the cooler temperatures and they are getting ready as we speak for winter. “When it gets cooler, especially the hibernating bats will start building up their fat reserves. Eating a lot more food, foraging a lot more. Eating as many insects as they can gather in a night to store up those fat reserves for winter hibernation,” Nobles said.