Declining Bat Populations Need Our Help
Each spring and summer, we get emails from people asking, “We have bats — what can I do to get rid of them?” Frankly, I am thankful that we get these questions. It means the person cared enough about wildlife to contact us first rather than going directly to a company that would remove or exclude them which generally means death to adults and young.
I also appreciate getting those emails because it’s an opportunity to talk about bats, how amazing they are and how lucky that person is to have them at their house. And, it’s a chance to talk about how we can live with bats, have a wonderful opportunity to learn about them and help this species which we are dangerously close to losing.
Here in Loudoun, we still have barns, shutters on windows, garages with openings here and there, and historic buildings with just the right crevices. We have some good bat habitat and we have a chance to help bats…but we need to be informed and tolerant. Yes, bats poop. But it’s ok.
A week or so ago, I received the latest newsletter from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center. They, and the Save Lucy Campaign, get a lot of questions about bats, and end up having to rehab injured and orphaned bats. In their newsletter they had this wonderful write-up and I got permission to repost it here. If you have bats at your house, celebrate them and simply take steps not to come in directly contact with them – we can all live together:
The most commonly encountered bat in Virginia these days is the Big Brown Bat. Not a very “big” bat, big browns weigh in at only 16 grams, the weight of three quarters, and are only 4 inches long. Big Browns now outnumber what used to be the most common bat, the Little Brown Bat, whose populations have declined 98% in some areas as a result of a fungal infection called White Nose Syndrome (WNS), which is killing large numbers of cave hibernating bats including little browns. Big brown bats are also a cave hibernating bat, but they can also be found hibernating in barns, attics, and abandoned buildings, a trait that is saving their lives.
During May and June, big brown bat females form maternity colonies in secluded areas in buildings and barns. Each female will give birth to one or two “pups” who cling to their mothers and nurse while their mother hangs upside down by her rear feet. If a baby falls, the mothers often cannot carry them back to the roost, so if not rescued, these babies will die. The BRWC rescues and raises many bat orphans every summer. We work very hard to save every bat we can because bats are a long lived species whose populations grow very slowly due to their low reproductive rate. This increases the importance of saving these young ones.
If you have a roost around your home where babies bats sometimes fall, you can install a net under the roost called a “pup catcher” This net is designed catch the pups and allow them to climb back to the roost. For advice, please call our Center 540-837-9000.