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NOTES FROM MISSOURI WILDLIFE CENTER: Go To Bat For The Environment

By Pam Bolton;

Executive Director Missouri Wildlife Center

 

When we tell people that we accept bats at the Wildlife Rescue Center, they often gasp in amazement.  Bats are portrayed in eerie movies and therefore; people often fear the “creatures of the night.”  In truth, bats are usually timid and most are harmless to people.

Bats are members of the scientific order Chiroptera and are nocturnal.  Their forelimbs are webbed which enables them to reign as the only mammal that is capable of continuous flight.  Other mammals, such as the flying squirrel, only glide from tree branches.

Bats are beneficial to the environment and are an important link in ecosystems around the world.  Fruit eating bats serve as the principal source of seed distribution for some species of plants.  Bats that feed on nectar pollinate many species of plants. More than 400 products, including cashews, avocados, tequila and balsa wood, are derived from plants that are pollinated by bats.  Even vampire provide a benefit to the human race as they possess an enzyme in their saliva that is used to dissolve blood clots in stroke victims.

All 14 species of bats in Missouri feed exclusively on insects.  A significant portion of a bat’s diet is mosquitoes.  In one hour a small brown bat can capture 600 mosquitoes. An environmentally friendly and effective method to decrease the mosquito population is to set up a bat house at your home.

Bats are disappearing at an alarming rate.  The Indiana bat and the gray bat are two species found in Missouri that are on the federal endangered species list. (The gray bat population devours 400 tons of insects in Missouri per year.)  Unfortunately, the endangered Ozark big-eared bat is no longer found in Missouri.

Humans are the demise of these beneficial mammals.  Cave explorers often disturb hibernating bats.  When the bats awaken they use up vital fat reserves that cannot be replenished during the winter season.  This unfortunate interruption can cause death.

To preserve the species, it is critical to allow the bats to roost undisturbed.

Bats have a very positive impact upon our planet.  Remember this when someone tells you that you have bats in your belfry.

Wildlife Rescue Center rehabilitates injured, sick and orphaned wildlife and releases healthy animals to their natural habitat.  Through educational outreach, the Center provides the community with environmental awareness to protect delicate ecosystems and promotes a harmonious relationship with native wildlife.

www.mowildlife.org

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