Batting away myths about bats

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Ryan Lyssy, 8, listens while his sister, Rachael Lyssy, 13, yells into artificial bat ears meant to demonstrate amplification of bat hearing in the new Bats, Mysteries and Myths exhibit Saturday. Ryan and Rachael and their friends, Bella Dzurk, 13, and Layne Gisle, 7, traveled from Falls City with their family to watch bullriding. Photo by Mandy Derfler

Ryan Lyssy, 8, listens while his sister, Rachael Lyssy, 13, yells into artificial bat ears meant to demonstrate amplification of bat hearing in the new Bats, Mysteries and Myths exhibit Saturday. Ryan and Rachael and their friends, Bella Dzurk, 13, and Layne Gisle, 7, traveled from Falls City with their family to watch bullriding. Photo by Mandy Derfler

Humans are more dangerous to bats than bats to humans.

By Cassandra M. Rodriguez

crodriguez719@student.alamo.edu

The Bat, Mysteries, and Myths exhibit sponsored by the Organization for Bat Conservation at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo was an eye-opener for people to learn the truth about bats.

“This is an opportunity for people to see them up close and see what they are really like and learn the truth about bats instead of all those myths,” education specialist Michelle Maust said.

One myth is bats attack people, but the truth is that bats avoid people because they are afraid of them. People think bats are dirty and have rabies. Bats actually groom themselves like cats and are very clean. Fewer than 1 percent of bats have rabies.

“Very few bats actually have rabies,” Maust said, adding that most people are surprised to learn “that they are pretty friendly and only bite in self-defense.”

Another misleading popular myth is bats suck blood. There are more than 1,250 species of bats, and only three species of vampire bats feed on blood. Don’t be alarmed: They only feed on blood from cows, chickens, goats and pigs. They live in Mexico, Central America and South America.

The most common species in this area are the Mexican free-tailed bats, seen at the Bracken Bat Cave in Comal County and the bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, and the big brown bat that was displayed at the exhibit.

The biggest threats to bats are humans and habitat loss. The development of the land around the Bracken Cave could severely disrupt their migration pattern, Maust said.

White-nose syndrome is a threat to North American cave-dwelling bats’ hibernation. It causes them to wake up weeks early resulting in dehydration and starvation because the water is frozen.

Since 2006, almost 6 million bats have died because of the syndrome, and caves that used to house about 10,000 bats are now empty. These common brown bats are now on the endangered species list.

People left the bat exhibit with new-found truths: Bats are not harmful and they are actually kind of cute.

For more information, visit www.batconservation.org.

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