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Environment & Climate Change

As bat populations decline, conservationists urge urbanites to welcome new nocturnal neighbors

Amanda Bevan in front of a crowd of people
Courtesy of Renee Voit-Porath
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Amanda Bevan shows local Pontiac citizens how to collect data on bats. Many of the attendees agreed to participate in the Urban Bat Project, including its effort to collect data on what species of bats live in downtown Pontiac.

 

Bats have a PR problem. They’re so associated with blood sucking and horror films, a lot of people want nothing to do with them.

That makes it hard to get people to care when they're in trouble, said Amanda Bevan, head of the Urban Bat Project and education specialist at the Organization for Bat Conservation.

That's a problem because right now, bats are in some pretty serious trouble. In the past decade, a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome has killed 80 percent of the bats in the northeastern United States.  

The disease disrupts the hibernation cycle of bats, causing them to use energy and deplete their fat reserves during the winter. Because bats eat insects, there’s no food for them in winter to replenish that fat, so they die.

 

It has spread to 31 states including Michigan. An estimated seven million bats have died in the U.S. alone. Bevan is part of an effort to help more people learn about bats, especially in populated areas like cities. She helps run a bat sanctuary in Pontiac.

"Bats in cities are really wildly understudied, and we believe that they are going to help bolster the loss of bats that are suffering from White Nose Syndrome,” Bevan said.

Bevan wants Michiganders to put out bat boxes, places for bats to nest, in their neighborhoods.

“You’d be surprised how quickly people change their perception of bats once they hear just how many insects they eat every single night,” she said.

For more about white-nose syndrome and the efforts to fight it, listen to the full conversation above.

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