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Little Known Facts Bring Bats Out of the Dark

July 21, 1994|LEONARD REED

Bats in Ventura County are everywhere--from behind house shutters in the Ventura Keys to barns in Ojai to caves and rock crevices throughout Simi's Santa Susana Mountains and, of course, the entire Los Padres National Forest.

Insect-feeding brown bats are most common. Fruit-eating species, such as those in tropical regions that re-pollinate mango and date trees, are not present. Also missing are vampires.

But the variety here still is considerable: Townsend's big-eared bat, the long-eared Myotis, the scorpion-eating pallid, Mexican free-tailed bats, silver haired bats, and the loner of loners, the furry gray hoary bat.

In attempting to educate the public about the bat's central role in the re-pollination of native plant species and the bat's insect-devouring capacities in residential and agricultural settings, Bat Conservation International of Austin, Tex., makes its resources available to anyone for the asking.

The following are some startling bat facts culled from BCI:

* One little brown bat can catch 600 mosquitoes in one hour.

* One colony of 150 big brown bats can protect local farmers from up to 18 million rootworms each growing season.

* Tequila is produced from agave plants, whose seed production plummets to 1/3,000th of normal without pollination by bats.

* Anticoagulants from bat saliva are under study in the treatment of human heart disease.

* Nearly 40% of all American bat species are threatened or endangered. Worldwide, even more species are in rapid decline.

* The common little brown bat is, for its size, the world's longest-lived mammal, with a lifespan sometimes exceeding 32 years.

* The pallid bat of the American West is immune to the stings of the scorpions and seven-inch centipedes it feeds upon.

* Fishing bats have echolocation of such precision that they can detect a minnow's fin, as fine as a human hair, protruding only 2 millimeters above the water surface.

* Mother Mexican free-tail bats can find and nurse their own young, even in colonies where babies cluster at up to 500 per square foot.

* Vampire bats "adopt" orphans and have been observed to risk their lives to share food with less successful roost-mates.

For further information, contact BCI at P.O. Box 162603, Austin, TX 78716

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