Supporting our Bat Population by Dr. Sadie Hutchings
By forming a town wide initiative in your town to install bat houses, we are helping support a local species that is not only feeds on mosquitoes and other night insects, but we are helping support a major pollinator and seed distributor.
While bats alone are not the sole solution to our mosquito misery, they are part of a solution that helps reduce our environment and our own exposure to chemicals to prevent insect bites and the diseases they carry with them. Pregnant bats can eat up to their body weight, some species eating 500-1000 mosquitoes an hour!
Providing a bat friendly environment will help support an important native species
Bats are not only dying from habitat loss, but from White Nose Syndrome. This is a disease that has killed nearly 5.7 million bats since 2006, has nearly completely wiped out some colonies. Imagine all the the bug bites those bats could have prevented!
How to Help Support our Bat Population
• Install a Bat House
Many bat houses are improperly built or designed and will fail to support or attract bats. In Massachusetts www.batbungalows.com have earned the seal of approval from the Bat Conservation International group. batcon.org (Bat Conservation International) also has great directions on how to build your own bat house and in depth recommendations on best placement.
Place a bat house ideally 12-20” above ground in sunny spot on the East or South facing side of a building (avoid metal buildings/attachments) yet avoiding bright lights like security lights. Most bats prefer to be within ¼ of a mile from water
Bat houses should be placed so that their droppings (guano) is not in an area of frequent human traffic (but is also a great fertilizer!)
- Leave deadwood
Supporting bat populations can also be done by allowing some dead trees to remain standing for shelter, if safe to do.
• Plant native plants to support the pollinators
• A very low number of bats harbor the Rabies virus. 2015 data shows that only 4% of submitted bats tested positive for Rabies in Massachusetts.
• Rabies can be avoided by keeping domesticated pets up to date on their vaccines and never handling any wildlife, particularly sick wildlife.
• If a sick bat is found inside a house, local authorities, such as your Animal Control Officer, should be contacted as well as the physician of any humans who may have unknowingly had contact with it. Friends of Cape Wildlife can also provide you with information about who to contact in your Cape Cod town. Call our hotline at 508-375-3700.
A fantastic resource is www.batcon.org. Here you can learn so much more about bats and how to help.
Dr. Sadie Hutchings, DVM of Herring Cove Animal Hospital in Provincetown, did her undergraduate work at UMASS Amherst Commonwealth College, (Summa Cum Laude) in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science. She received her veterinary degree from Tufts Cumming School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. Dr. Hutchings feels the most rewarding part of her job is improving the lives of senior animals. Her interests include: geriatric care, nutrition, integrative medicine and feline medicine.