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November 2, 2012

Bats don't deserve their bad rap

(Continued)

Then there’s that idea that bats are vampires and suck blood. Boy, the film industry has capitalized on that one. We’ve all seen the vampire climb out of his coffin dressed in a black cloak and turn into a bat to fly away and search out his next victim.

There are vampire bats in Central and South America, but they don’t just land on someone’s neck and suck their blood. They actually land on sleeping animals, put a tiny slice in their skin and lap up the blood that flows from the wound. The bat’s saliva actually contains an anesthetic that keeps the animal from feeling the prick.

OK, bats have rabies. At least, some do.

We’re told you shouldn’t handle a bat if you find one in your house. You can ask my son about that. He and his wife, Melissa, had to have a multitude of shots because of doing just that.

Actually, under a half of one percent of bats carry the rabies virus. In the past 40 years fewer than 40 people in the United States have contracted rabies from bats. But be on the safe side and avoid handling them.

But seriously, why would you want to handle them? Bats aren’t cute, adorable creatures that you want to pick up and cuddle like a little kitten. I’m sorry, but they are kind of ugly. They don’t really make good pets.

Today bats are on the decrease because of a fungus called white nose syndrome. It has killed more than seven million bats.

So what do you say? When you’re sitting out some summer night and the mosquitoes are eating you alive, you might wish there were more bats around. They eat thousands of those pesky little insects every night.

You don’t have to like bats, but you sure should appreciate them.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.

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