Urban Bats Need Love Too
My friend Shawn and I built this bat box at the urging of my cousin Brad, a US Department of Fish and Wildlive field biologist up in Washington State. Ironically, much like the honey bee, bats need safe places to live in the urban environment, which again, due to abundant forage (mosquitos and bugs of the night) and lack of pesticides, provide safe refuge for a struggling species.
Since 2007 when a caver in NY photographed a white substance on muzzles of hibernating bats, over a million bats have succumbed to what has since been dubbed White-Nose Syndrome. In some areas, death rates reach nearly 90%. Scientists have discovered that the white substance is a fungus, Geomyces destructans, the cause of which is still undetermined.
Many scientists argue that in order to protect bat colonies, we must create more habitat for hibernating bats. By creating bat boxes everywhere, from urban environments like mine to agricultural settings, forests and on phone poles, we can decentralize bat populations, and reduce the risk of massive infections.
Another parallel with bees is of course the hysteria and misunderstanding. Sadly, I suspect this blow to the species is going to be confounded by the human impact. If people see bats with white muzzles, they are going to suspect rabies and eradicate immediately. Worse yet, bats suffering from White-Nose Syndrome are reported to behave uncharacteristically; again likely to lead people to suspect that the bat is going to turn their pooch into Kujo.
Bats are beyond critical to our health and future. Without bats we would be overrun with insects, and vectors spread by mosquitos would intensify exponentially. Putting up a bat box is a simple token of gratitude to a species working over-time to make the planet habitable for our species.
Bats, again like bees, are to be given a wide birth and respected, but are a welcome addition to any environment. I encourage you to put up a bat box, wherever you can. There are tons of plans online and if followed carefully, you can easily create valuable habitat for a very valuable species.
Stay tuned for if any bats actually show up. Would love to rescue some bats but I don’t think that is how it works. I’ll check with some wildlife rescue friends to be sure.