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Bats: Chiroptera - Conservation Status

june accessed risk extinction

Bat populations are in decline in the United States and throughout the world. In the United States, out of forty-five bat species, six are federally endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction, dying out, or threatened, close to facing the risk of extinction. Twenty species are categorized as being of special concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) includes 521 bats on its Red List of Threatened Species. Twenty-nine are Critically Endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction; thirty-seven are Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction; 173 are Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction. The rest on the list are not currently threatened, but could become so, or there is not enough information about the bats to know how threatened they are.

With few natural predators, the primary reason for declining bat populations is directly and indirectly related to humans. Pesticides on plants have reduced insect populations, the food supply for many bats. Occasionally, people hunt bats for food, but far more harmful to bats is the destruction of their natural areas and living spaces. Deforestation, the clearing of trees for agriculture or people, decreases their food supply and habitats.

FINDING DINNER

Bats have an amazing ability to find food. Fishing bats have echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a minnow's fin as fine as a human hair, which sticks up above a pond's surface only 0.08 inches (2 millimeters); that's about the thickness of about twenty human hairs. African heart-nosed bats can hear the footsteps of a beetle walking on sand from a distance of more than six feet. And when the Central American fringe-lipped bat hears the mating calls of mud-puddle frogs, it switches to the frogs' lower frequency so that it can detect its exact location.

People have also killed colonies of bats out of fear or ignorance. In Central America, where vampire bats can be a problem for livestock, locals find bat caves and blow them up, killing entire colonies whether they are colonies of vampire bats or not. In the United States, destroying bat habitats such as mines have killed them and any that remain are left without protection.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

Fenton, Brock M. Bats. New York: Checkmark Press, 2001.

Fenton, Brock M. The Bat: Wings in the Night Sky. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 1998.

Richardson, Phil. Bats. London: Whittet Books, 1985.

Ruff, Sue, and Don E. Wilson. Bats. New York: Benchmark Books, 2001.

Schober, Wilfried, and Eckard Grimmberger. The Bats of Europe and North America. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1997.

Periodicals:

Gordon, David George. "13 Reasons You Should Love Bats." National Geographic Kids (October 2003): S8.

Hicks, Alan. "A Bit about Bats." New York State Conservationist (October 1999): 2.

Kerner, Sarah. "In the Bat Cave." Boys' Life (June 2003): 18.

Toufexis, Anastasia. "Bats' New Image: Researchers Say They're Benign, Useful and Endangered." Time (August 21, 1995): 58.

Web sites:

"Bat Information." The Bat Conservation Trust. http://www.bats.org.uk/bat_info.htm (accessed on June 22, 2004).

"Bats (Chiroptera)." National Parks Conservation Association. http://www.eparks.org/wildlife_protection/wildlife_facts/bats/default.asp (accessed on June 22, 2004).

"Bats in the Desert Southwest." Desert USA. http://www.desertusa.com/jan97/du_bats.html (accessed on June 22, 2004).

Best, Heather. "Bats: Learning to Love Them." Wildwnc.org. http://wildwnc.org/natnotes/bats.html (accessed on June 22, 2004).

"Cave Life." The National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/ozar/cavelife.html (accessed on June 22, 2004).

"Discover the Secret World of Bats." Bat Conservation International, Inc. http://www.batcon.org (accessed on June 22, 2004).

Harris, Tom. "How Bats Work." How Stuff Works. http://science.howstuffworks.com/bat.htm (accessed on June 22, 2004).

Tyburec, Janet. "Bats." Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. http://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_bats.html (accessed on June 22, 2004).

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