Bat Week aims to change how you think of the flying mammal
Ghosts, skeletons, and bats are common decorations this time of year as celebrate the spooky season.
The Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest is part of a global effort called Bat Week to make bats seem not so scary.
There are a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding bats.
Stories like they want to drink your blood or that they’re blind have been circulating for decades.
“There's the ‘bats get stuck in your hair’ one surprisingly comes up often. Then that all bats are have diseases and are rabid,” said Brian Heeringa when asked about the misconceptions he most often hears about.
Heeringa is a wildlife biologist in the Washburn District of the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest.
He’s been researching bats in the region for nearly two decades.
While bats, like any mammal, can get rabies, it’s not that common for bats to have the disease.
Heerigna wants to help fight misconceptions and hopefully inspire people to take action to help protect bats.
He’s seen the decline in bat populations, especially once white-nose syndrome hit the area in the late 2010s.
Wind Turbines have also hurt migrating bat populations.
“The one thing that kind of impacts all bats across the board regardless of white-nose or wind energy development is the loss of habitat. That's the biggest threat to bats worldwide,” he said.
Bats are a critical part of our ecosystem.
Locally, they help control insect populations, like mosquitoes and pests that destroy crops.
There are also bat species that help pollinate and disperse fruit seeds.
“There's just such a diversity of bats out there that live in such a variety of areas that it’s just amazing to be this species of animal,” said Heeringa.
The good news is there are ways people can help.
Heeringa recommends doing your research and looking into joining the efforts of conservation groups, like Bat Conservation International.
There are simple things like turning off outdoor lights at night and respecting bat habitats.
You can also build bat houses for your property or help with acoustic monitoring.
“It's amazing to me, the more you look and learn, you realize that bats are kind of integrated into many facets of our life. [I] just try to encourage folks to learn about bats,” said Heeringa. “It's easy to be scared of or not necessarily understand things that you don't see every day. Bats are one of those animals that come out at night and might be scary or disturbing to some people. But in fact, they're quite beautiful animal that do some great things for us.”
Heeringa is giving a talk about bats on Saturday, October 28th as part of Bat Week.
It’s at 1:00 p.m. at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland.