Bats often get a bad rap. So Montana WILD in Helena is doing what it can to change that, and show that these creatures of the night are also creatures of great importance to our ecosystem who like hanging around the state just as much as we do.
“The fifteen species of bats we have here in Montana are insectivores, so here in Montana they are hugely beneficial to agriculture," Montana WILD Program Specialist Corie Bowditch told MTN. "One little brown bat can eat one-thousand mosquito-sized insects an hour, so we’re all very grateful for that.”
Their work doesn’t stop there. The roughly 1,300 species of bats all over the world are important pollinators and just down-right cool animals that need our help right now.
"Bats are facing various challenges right now, habitat lost being a big one," Bowditch said. "Folks often don’t realize that they don’t just roost in caves, they roost in old dead tree snags. So leaving snags up is one thing you can do to help bats. Many folks have probably heard, white-nose syndrome, this is a disease caused by a cold-adapted fungus. It essentially attaches itself to bats, irritates them, keeps them up all winter and then they aren’t able to make it through hibernation because of that. So being aware as you move around if you are popping into any caves, it’s something that we can be spreading.”
We can also stop spreading misinformation about the winged animals, starting with their spooky association with… you know.
The kids always want to talk about vampire bats, we don’t have any here in Montana," laughed Bowditch. "They are one of these species that are in scary movies and story books a sort of get a bad rap in general. So rabies, its found that less than one percent of bats in the wild actually have rabies. Now of course, you still need to use extreme caution if you are interacting with a bat, finding one in the yard acting strangely, the chances that, that bat has rabies is higher than a bat that’s acting normally, flying around at night that you wouldn’t interact with. Then, of course, there’s sillier myths about bats, ‘blind as a bat’, bats can see just fine. It’s just that they have their amazing echolocation that helps them to navigate and forage in the evening.”
If you have any questions or want to learn more about bats, October is the perfect time to do that, and Montana WILD is the perfect place.
Editor's note: The original version of this article indicated there were 1,500 bat species when there are only 1,300 known species.