A Moment of Science

It’s a Bat’s Life

Who wants real bats in their house? Well, if bats could talk, they might say the feeling is mutual.

hibernating bats hanging from a tree

Photo: Guy Nesher

Rousing bats raises their metabolism, which can mean the loss of energy required to sustain hibernation. The result can be fatal.

No Halloween haunted house is complete without a bat or two, right? I mean a fake bat, of course. Who wants real bats in their house?

Well, if bats could talk, they might say the feeling is mutual. Caves have been turned into tourist attractions, as well as disturbed by spelunkers, people who explore caves as a hobby. These disturbances are a serious problem for the bats that hibernate in these caves.

Bats require cool temperatures of around 37 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit for their winter hibernation. Construction in and around caves can alter air flow in a cave, in effect, altering the temperature. If the temperature rises too high, bats may be unable to go into hibernation. If air flow is increased too much, or if bats are forced too close to a cave opening, they may freeze to death.

Moreover, when people disturb caves where bats are hibernating, the bats may be awakened from their hibernation. Rousing bats raises their metabolism, which can mean the loss of energy required to sustain hibernation. The result can be fatal.

These threats and others have put bats on the Endangered Species List.

Efforts, such as bat-friendly gates, are being made to protect bats though. Gates are crucial to keep people, and sometimes animal predators, such as raccoons and cats, out of caves. If designed poorly, however, gates may keep bats out as well as people, or they may change the winter conditions of the cave so that it is no longer useful to bats. Bat-friendly gates leave spaces so that bats can come and go as they please, they don’t harm the cave’s winter environment, and they keep out unwanted guests.

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