Bats often show up in Halloween stories and decorations but how did the only flying mammal become such a scary symbol?
Bats are known to live in caves or ruins and are most active at night. This night time lifestyle makes it pretty easy for people to associate bats with evil things. The connection with vampires makes sense – Hello? Vampire bats! But what about witches? It is believed that bats would fly around witches’ fires to catch the moths that were drawn to the light and heat.
A Bat Reputation
Of course, that’s just Halloween legend! Bats are actually really cool creatures. Did you know that bats are great for pest control? One little brown bat can easily capture 600 mosquitoes in one hour! Bats are also really important pollinators and seed dispersers. By eating fruit and nectar from plants, bats carry seeds and pollen to new places. Not so scary anymore, huh?
Well, there is one thing about bats that’s pretty scary…it’s that they are disappearing. Bats all over the world are at risk from a disease known as White Nose Syndrome.
What is White Nose Syndrome Anyways?
White Nose Syndrome is a disease responsible for the death of over 5.7 million North American bats since 2006. This fast spreading disease takes advantage of bats hibernating close to each other in caves during the winter, and spreads through the air and direct contact.
It is named after the white growth it causes on the infected bat’s muzzle and wings, but this isn’t its only symptom. White Nose Syndrome also causes bats to wake up during their hibernation. Sure that might not sound like a big deal to you, but this can harm the bats. By not sleeping through the winter, these bats use up too much energy before food becomes available again in the spring. As a result, bat populations in Eastern Canada have declined by 90% in only two years!
Help From a Friend
There are things you can do in your own back yard to make a bat’s life a little easier. Create a safe place for bats to live by building or buying a bat house. Or talk to your parents about not using chemicals or pesticides in your yard. And by staying out of bat caves, you can help reduce the spread of White Nose Syndrome. These are excellent and easy ways to help bats out!
Bats are also getting a little leg up from scientists at Parks Canada. They are doing bat research in caves found in Glacier National Park in the hopes of being able to better protect bats and their caves.
A Batty Spectacle
You can also help bats by learning more about them and spreading the word. If people aren’t frightened of bats, they will be sure to help.
Visit national parks to explore old growth forests where bats nest or watch them devour bugs at sunset. You can even check out three “bat dormitories” in Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site (QC), which Parks Canada built to preserve bat populations.
Don’t live near Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site? You can find bat populations in national parks all over Canada, including Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (BC), Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve (BC), Banff National Park (AB), Fundy National Park (NB), Kouchibouguac National Park (NB), Gros Morne National Park (NL) and Prince Edward Island National Park (PEI)
Gerina Dunwich, Witch’s Halloween. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2007: Page 50 – 52
Silver RavenWolf Halloween. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1997: Page 64 – 66
Mickleburgh et al. (2002). A review of the global conservation status of bats. Oryx 36:18-34