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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Top Five Bat-Facts We Bet You Didn't Know
by The Nature Conservancy

Halloween is right around the corner, and that means that it's finally time for bats to be in the spotlight (outside of Gotham City). There's a lot to love about these diverse, echolocating, occasionally-blood-drinking creatures -- and even more to learn. Check out the top five facts about bats they didn't teach you in school.

A Pallid Bat catches a scorpion © Merlin Tuttle/Bat Conservation International.

1. Bats help keep humans safe and well-fed.

Bats are an incredibly diverse group of animals -- with more than 1,200 different species, they make up a fifth of all mammals -- and they earn their living in all sorts of ways. Many bats prey on mosquitos and other insects that are harmful to people. (Thanks, bats!) And bats pollinate critical (and delicious) crops including bananas, mangoes, figs, and cashews. (Thanks AGAIN, bats!)

Mexican Free-tailed Bats leaving Bracken Bat Cave at sunset © Jacqueline Ferrato/TNC.

2. A group of bats is called a "colony" -- and the largest can comprise as many as 20 million bats.

That's ... a lot of bats. The largest Mexican free-tailed bat colony in the world (as many as 20 million bats!) roosts at Bracken Bat Cave, about 30 miles outside of San Antonio, Texas.

Together with the City of San Antonio and Bat Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy recently acquired a 1,521-acre property adjacent to Bracken Cave -- one of many Conservancy projects nationwide devoted to protecting essential habitat and restoring bat populations.

You can help protect threatened landscapes and the wildlife that depend on them by making a donation to The Nature Conservancy.

Little Brown Bat © Ann Froschauer/USFWS.
3. Bats can be cute. Super cute. Look at this guy:
Brown Bat release © Katie Gillies/Bat Conservation International.

4. The greatest threat to bats isn't garlic, or wooden stakes, or even sunlight. It's a fungus -- a terrible, terrible fungus.

In the past few years, a fungus-related illness called White Nose Syndrome has wiped out millions of bats across the U.S. and Canada. It can afflict an entire cave of bats -- entering their tiny bodies and kicking their metabolisms into overdrive until they starve to death.

The Nature Conservancy is leading the search for a cure for White Nose Syndrome, and Conservancy-funded researchers have recently made major breakthroughs. Thanks to these efforts, some bats have already been successfully treated and released back into the wild.

We have a long way to go -- but with continued support from our members, there is now real hope that populations will be able to recover before it's too late.

Desmodus rotundus, Sangayan Island, Paracas National Reserve © Wikimedia Commons.

5. Bats can be altruistic.

Nobody gets a bad rap like the unfairly vilified vampire bat. Yes, these tiny creatures feed on blood -- but they have also been shown to be incredibly generous. If a vampire bat doesn't find a meal on his nightly hunt, his more-successful neighbors will keep him from starving by sharing their own food.

Some might find vampire bats feasting on regurgitated blood a little icky -- but we think it's actually very sweet. It's nice to know that generosity is part of what keeps bats healthy and thriving.

And one last thing: You may not be able to feed a thirsty vampire bat directly, but you can protect incredible wildlife and restore natural places by making a donation to The Nature Conservancy today.

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