Governor C.L. Butch Otter has proclaimed October 24–31 to be National Bat Week in Idaho and called upon Idahoans to join him in celebrating the significance of bats with observances and activities. This year’s theme is “Be a Bat Hero!”
Bat Week is a time to celebrate our bats and to spread the word about how we can help to protect them. To learn more about bats, visit the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Bat Week table at Cabela’s in Boise on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 1 to 2 p.m.
Bats are amazing animals that are vital to our health, our environment, and our economy. Although all Idaho bats are insect-eating, in other parts of the world, some bats pollinate important food crops while others spread seeds that grow new trees.
In Idaho, bats are worth an estimated annual value of $313 million to our agricultural industry by consuming insect pests that damage crops. Bats also suppress forest insect pests and thus help to protect Idaho’s forests. Yet bats are in decline nearly everywhere they are found, particularly as a result of wind energy and white-nose syndrome, a disease that has resulted in unprecedented mortality of hibernating bats throughout eastern North America. Bats need our help. During Bat Week 2018, take action!
Here are things every Idahoan can do to Be a Bat Hero!
Respect them: Please be aware that all bat species in Idaho are legally protected under the classification “Protected Nongame Species.” It is illegal to harm, harass, or kill them. Protected Nongame status is not intended to prevent unintentional take, protection of personal health and/or safety, limit property and building management, or prevent management of animals to address public health concerns. If you observe a possible violation, please “Make the Call” to Citizens Against Poaching at 1-800-632-5999. You can remain anonymous and rewards are available.
Leave bats alone! October finds the last wave of migrating bats moving south to their wintering grounds or to their hibernation sites in Idaho. Bats need to stop and rest along the way and often land on the first spot that suits them, which can be any place from the side of a building (especially rough surfaces such as stucco, brick, or wood), beneath loose bark, on the ground under leaves, in natural cavities, hanging from foliage, cracks and crevices in rocks, under shingles and shutters, in furled umbrellas, door jams, on the side of a tree, in cracks at ground level, over a door, under an eave, tucked under an entryway, in a firewood pile, or virtually anywhere. When roosting, bats can also go into torpor, where they lower their body temperature and metabolism. They can look dead and have to shiver to come out of it. If you find a bat that is hanging from its toes with its head below its feet, leave the bat alone. Human perceptions of abnormal behavior by bats are not always correct and often result in healthy bats being mistaken as ill. And contrary to what most people think, although bats are generally nocturnal, some bats are active in the daytime and may come out to feed, get some fresh air, get a drink of water, or even sun themselves. Unless you find a bat that is clearly in trouble (e.g., trapped, injured, or grounded), leave the bat alone.
If bats are in your home, and you don’t want them there, contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for information on how to safely remove them. Unless a public health threat exists, the best time to evict (provide one-way doors and exits) and exclude (close gaps and seal holes to prevent bats from entering or re-entering) bats from structures is from early September through mid-October—after bat maternity season and before bats go into hibernation.
Keep them safe and healthy: Protect bats and keep Idaho white-nose syndrome free by complying with all current cave and mine closures, advisories, and regulations. Do not transport any clothing, footwear, and/or gear (equipment) into Idaho that has been in contact with bats or their environments in other states or countries. Within Idaho, follow the National White-Nose Syndrome Decontamination Protocol to clean and decontaminate bat and/or subterranean equipment between sites.
Report unusual bat mortality (five or more dead/sick bats at the same time in the same place) to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
If you find a sick or injured bat, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator. See Bat World Sanctuary’s Local Rescue page to locate a bat care specialist.
Watch for bat hitchhikers: Please don’t take any bats with you! Remember to check your campers, tents, awnings, and umbrellas before you leave.
Increase your knowledge about bats and rabies: Although the prevalence of rabies in bat populations is only approximately 0.1 percent (1 in 1,000), bats are the only known reservoir for rabies in Idaho. However, even with such low odds of actually encountering a rabid bat, rabies is almost always fatal to humans and animals unless promptly treated. To be safe, since you can’t tell that a bat is rabid by just looking at it, all direct contact with bats should be avoided. What is a rabies exposure? Contact with a potentially rabid animal like a bat (e.g., merely seeing a bat or being in the vicinity of a bat), does not necessarily constitute an exposure. A bite from a rabid bat is considered the most likely way the virus will be transmitted. Nonbite transmission of rabies is rare, and aerosol transmission has never been well documented in the natural environment. A nonbite exposure is defined as contamination of open wounds, abrasions (including scratches), or mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth) with saliva or other potentially infectious material (e.g., neural tissue). If a person has been bitten by a bat or might be unaware that a bite or direct contact had occurred (e.g., a deeply sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room or an adult witnesses a bat in the room with a previously unattended child, mentally disabled person, or intoxicated person), contact the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare public health district office or health care provider as soon as possible to talk about the situation. If you are concerned about a bat in your vicinity, but YOU OR YOUR PET HAVE NOT had an exposure, contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to speak to a bat specialist.
Keep your cat safe while protecting bats and other wildlife: Cats are a major predator on bats. When possible, keep cats indoors and promote responsible pet ownership by vaccinating cats and other pets for rabies.
Fly strips, glue traps, and wasp sprays kill bats: If you spray for wasps, be careful not to spray roosting bats. Consider the potential impacts to nontarget wildlife species and whether you need to use these products. If you find a bat stuck to an adhesive trap, call a local wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
Be careful when doing fall yardwork: Some bats roost by hanging from small limbs and will even roost under fallen leaves on the ground. Watch for bats when pruning and when raking leaves.
Be mindful of bats when cutting and hauling firewood: When felling trees, examine the tree to see if it’s occupied by bats. If a tree does not provide potential bat roosting habitat (e.g., no loose/exfoliating bark, cracks, hollows, or cavities), then it may be removed without further consideration to roosting bats. If a tree appears to provide roosting habitat, then try to determine whether the tree is occupied by bats before cutting it. Avoid cutting trees during June and July when bat pups may be present. When loading firewood for hauling, watch for bats roosting in the stacked wood.
Anglers, watch your cast: Bats often get caught on fish hooks or flies when anglers cast their lines. They can also become entangled in monofilament. When casting, watch for bats to avoid catching a bat. Pick up discarded fishing line and recycle it by dropping it off in a recycling collection bin.
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