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For Immediate Release: 10/08/12

Nothing to Be Spooked About; Bats Play an Important Role in Ecology and Need Help

This year is the “International Year of the Bat,” one of the most misunderstood wildlife species and, with Halloween just weeks away, their reputation often suffers this time of year.

Born Free USA, a leader in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, is working to stop the rapid decline in bat populations. “Humans can help bats by dispelling the myths that cause needless harm to and fear about them,” says Monica Engebretson, senior program associate for Born Free USA. “They are actually vitally important to ecosystems and agriculture.”

According to Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, “Bats are extremely valuable to our country’s agriculture due to the incredible number of insects these small animals consume, and many homeowners encourage bats to roost near their homes by installing specially designed bat houses to reap the insect-control benefits that bats provide.”

Engebretson adds, “Fear of contracting rabies is the greatest fear people have about bats, but rabies only affects a small percentage of bats — less than one half of one percent, and the risk of contracting rabies is further minimized by following basic precautions such as not handling or touching bats with bare hands.”

Bats may choose to roost in exterior building walls or attics and may raise their young in these spaces. If building or homeowners are unable to accommodate the bats, it is a widely accepted best practice to humanely exclude bats from unwanted roosting areas after they have finished raising young and when they are not hibernating. Blocking access to a human-occupied interior area of a building is a simple and effective method to prevent contact with bats during this time.

Roberts says, “Individuals can help offset the threats faced by bats and reap the benefits of having bats around by becoming “bat smart.”

Born Free USA top tips for being bat smart:

  • If a bat flies into your home, as long as no direct human contact has occurred the bat can be released outdoors. First leave a door or window to the outside open to allow the bat to leave on its own. If it does not leave on its own the bat can be safely captured and released outside using a box (cover the landed bat with a box, slip a piece of cardboard between the wall/floor and the container gently tapping the bat inside). Then wait until nightfall and take the box outside and release the bat outside.
  • If you find an injured bat or a bat who appears unable to fly, call your local wildlife rehabilitator, your local animal control or public health office.
  • Create roosting sites for bats on your property by installing bat houses — build your own or buy one. Plans for building or purchasing bat houses can be found on the Internet.
  • Humanely exclude bats from buildings and spaces that you don’t want them to roost in. Exclusions should only be done when young bats are mature enough to leave the roost and when bats are not hibernating. Bat Conservation International www.batcon.org has detailed instructions for humanely and safely excluding bats from buildings.
  • Take reasonable precautions — never handle bats with bare hands.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

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