While it might seem like an odd time to talk about the ecological contributions of bats, it’s not. Today is the perfect day for it, as it is International Bat Appreciation Day, a day begun by Bat Conservation International, a group of scientists concerned about the protection of bats.
The only true flying mammal, bats are protected under state law; it’s illegal to kill any of Kentucky’s 15 species of bat unless it is damaging a homeowner’s property.
Although being around bats might be unnerving for some, because of their long association with vampire lore, among other reasons, we must resist the urge to be repulsed by them and learn the benefits of having them around.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife reminds us of the positives of having a healthy bat population:
• Most bats are not rabid.
• Bat droppings in buildings are usually not a source of histoplasmosis.
• Bats are not filthy and will not infest homes with dangerous parasites.
• Bats are not aggressive and will not attack people or pets.
• Kentucky bats do not feed on blood. (The vampire bat, which does feed on blood, lives in Latin America, more than 1,000 miles from Kentucky.)
• Bats consume large amounts of insects.
• Bats aid in pollination and dispersal of seeds.
Of course, no one wants a bat in their home, so if one enters, it’s recommended you leave a window open to encourage it to leave. If more firm measures are required, wear thick, heavy gloves to capture the bat using a box and heavy cardboard and release it outdoors.
To encourage them to stay away, place strong scents, such as cinnamon, eucalyptus, cloves and mint, in the areas they tend to gather.
Not only is it International Bat Appreciation Day, it is the time of year bats have come out of hibernation. Be ready and be kind.