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Bats in Central, Coastal California
By Mark R. Stromberg, Hastings Natural History Reservation
Bats are mammals that can fly, and that makes them pretty unique. We share many aspects of our basic biology with bats, but they are hard to get to know. They are active when we sleep; we can't hear them and we can't see in dark where bats are active. Given this difficulty, it is no wonder that bats are so subject to myths based on fear and ingorance. But once you get to know bats, they are pretty interesting little companions.
First, bats should not cause any person fear. They require some respect, but they are far too expert at flying to ever get tangled in your hair. And a bat biting a person would be like us biting an elephant! Certainly bats can carry diseases (rabies, for instance). But rabies is also carried by dogs, racoons and cows! Bats should not be handled without training, and any bat active during the day is probably sick and should not be approached or picked up. Call the local SPCA or California Fish and Game to report a sick or injured bat.
A great place to see bats in Monterey County is Pinnacles National Monument.
Despite the difficulties studying them, much is known about bats. A great website on bats is Bat Conservation International (BCI) P. O. Box 162603 Austin, Texas 78716 (512) 327-9721. BCI offers a great magazine ("Bats") and has many publications. One explains how to put a one-way door on your house (attic?) to exclude bats. BCI has many publication showing how bats are effective, natural insect control. BCI offers information for K-12 teachers in the form of excellent slide shows, films, books, and activities for all levels. BCI sponsors adult and professional education courses on bat biology, including courses at antother field station (Southwest Field Station, Portal Arizona) each summer.
Photos: used by permission; Bat Conservation International, or from Barbour, R. W. and W. H. Davis. 1969. Bats of America. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 286 pp.