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Spooky Halloween Icons Maybe, But Bats Help New Mexico

PHOTO: Bats are helpful to New Mexico farmers and people in general, despite being a mainstay among the Halloween creatures that may cause fear in some people. Photo courtesy of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
PHOTO: Bats are helpful to New Mexico farmers and people in general, despite being a mainstay among the Halloween creatures that may cause fear in some people. Photo courtesy of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
October 30, 2014

ALBURQUERQUE, N.M. - Halloween is Friday, and bats may be among the creepy creatures meant to cause fright, but the little animals actually help New Mexico farmers and people. Amanda Lollar, president with the nonprofit Bat World Sanctuary says bats keep certain insects under control.

"Without the insect control bats provide to us, basically, billions of dollars of pest control would have to be provided to counteract all of the insects that the bats eat," she says.

Lollar says bats also eat mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile virus. Wildlife officials report nationally, half of all bat species are in severe decline or already listed as endangered.

Lollar says the many species of bats that call New Mexico home can be found in deserts and forests. She says the biggest challenge to bat conservation is the lack of knowledge about most species. Lollar explains, bats also suffer from a serious image problem, which likely hampers conservation efforts.

"Most people want to save things they can relate to," she says. "People can relate to dolphins because they have such a high intelligence level, because they communicate with each other, and things like that. Well, bats do exactly the same thing. In fact, a bat's intelligence level is almost equivalent to a dolphin."

Lollar says research shows some species can form the "bat equivalent" of sentences through their use of about two dozen sounds. She says the only other mammals known to form sentences are humans.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM