Bat Story Continued

Bat populations are under constant pressure from habitat loss, pesticides, wind turbine collisions, and white nose syndrome which is expected to reach California in the coming years. White nose syndrome has decimated  Little Brown Bat populations in the east, and it could potentially affect half of all of California’s bat species. This is bad news for humans as well, as biologists consider bats “keystone” species. Keystone species are considered essential to their ecosystems which would collapse without their presence.

24 of California’s 25 bat species are insectivorous (insect-eating), and they are critical to insect control. Just one Little Brown Bat can eat 1000 mosquito-sized insects per hour!  Scientists estimate that bats save the US agricultural industry $3.7 billion a year in reduced crop damage and pesticide use. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/bat_crisis_white-nose_syndrome/pdfs/Boyles2011EconomicsofBats.pdf

Given the importance of bats to our ecosystems and economy, it may surprise you to learn that most Los Angeles-area animal services agencies euthanize all bats they pick up, healthy or not.  They are then sent to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to be tested for rabies.  15% test positive. This is a big number, but the much bigger number is the 85% of bats who are euthanized needlessly.

SBWR’s latest bat patient is a male Hoary Bat who was found on the ground at the base of his pine tree roost in Altadena. The person who found him posted his picture on Nextdoor.com.  SBWR’s bat team heard the news and rescued him in the nick of time, shortly before an animal control officer arrived.  Although he was perfectly healthy, he would have been euthanized unecessarily had SBWR not reached him first.

Hoary Bats are a remarkable species. They fly long distances at high altitudes like migratory birds and hibernate 10 – 40 ft off the ground in evergreen trees. They feed only in complete darkness and echolocate intermittently. Because they are difficult to spot and track, not much is known about their numbers and migratory patterns.  What is known is that Hoary bats are the #1 bat species killed by wind turbines – over 120,000 collide with them each year!  It is not yet known why.  Biologists consider this rate of population decline unsustainable. This is because bats reproduce slowly – most mothers rear only one pup per year – so populations cannot recover quickly from significant losses.

Hoary Bats primarily eat moths and can consume 40 % of their body weight per day.  Our little guy weighs less than 1 ounce and has been downing up to 50 meal works daily!

We will release our Hoary Bat soon, with a full belly, near the spot he was found after the cold spell lifts so he can resume hibernation.

If you find a bat, do not touch it, and call SBWR’s Bat Team hotline at 310-365-5656.  (Any bat that has had human or pet contact must be euthanized and tested for rabies.)

Spread the word, and help SBWR save the bats!

 

 

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