Bat population is taking a dive

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECalifornia’s bungled $1 billion accounting system What people don’t realize is that bats are critical in controlling insects that are not only a nuisance, but carry diseases that can affect the human population, such as West Nile virus and encephalitis. “A single little brown bat can consume 6,000 mosquito-sized insects in a night,” said Patricia Brown, a biological consultant familiar with Southern California bat populations. “The most obvious negative impact of the loss of bats is the loss of their ability to control night-flying insects, many of which are detrimental to humans.” Swift said that a formal bat census hasn’t been taken in several years, but that several of the 14 species of bats found in the Santa Clarita Valley are on endangered lists. “The most common bat in the area is the free-tailed bat and the myotis bats, which are small, with wingspans between 4 to 6 inches,” he said. “We see them on moonlight hikes every month except maybe December and January, when they might be hibernating.” Bats are protected by state and federal laws; people may remove them if they are damaging property by simply waiting until the bats leave and closing off their access. And the rumor that all bats have rabies is not true – less than one-half of one percent of bats carry rabies (99 percent of human deaths due to rabies are due to contact with rabid dogs). A good rule to follow is if you come across a bat on the ground, don’t touch it. It’s probably sick and best handled by calling animal control. According to the California Department of Fish and Game, the seed production of agave plants, from which tequila is made, drops to 1/3,000th of normal without bat pollinators – so if your trick or treat includes a margarita, thank a bat. carol.rock@dailynews.com (661) 257-5252 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SANTA CLARITA – You see them everywhere this time of year – bats in various forms, from perky Hallmark-style comical critters to blood-sucking vampires with glowing red eyes – and most will disappear before the last of the Halloween candy is consumed. The disappearance of real bats is a cause for concern, according to naturalists both locally and across the nation. Bat populations in urban areas have been dropping significantly, according to a recent study by a branch of the National Academy of Sciences. “We have fewer oak trees and a lot of habitat has been converted, not so much to housing, but to shopping centers where light attracts insects away from the natural areas where bats feed,” said Ian Swift, superintendent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center. “We have a lot of bats that are hit by cars trying to go after insects in urban areas. They are one of the most important members of our ecosystem because of their consumption of night insects.” last_img read more