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Californian’s now facing a pair of wildfires; Also on the Tuesday rundown: Higher education in New Jersey: a racial split; plus food resources still available despite the “public charge” proposal.

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Busting Bat Myths in Arkansas

PHOTO: Halloween wraps up National Bat Week. The northern long-eared bat, found in Arkansas, has been proposed for an Endangered Species Act listing. Credit: StevenThomas/National Park Service
PHOTO: Halloween wraps up National Bat Week. The northern long-eared bat, found in Arkansas, has been proposed for an Endangered Species Act listing. Credit: StevenThomas/National Park Service
October 31, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Bats are one of the stars for Halloween celebrations tonight, and part of this week's "National Bat Week" observance is bat myth-busting. Dianne Odegard, outreach coordinator at Bat Conservation International, says once you get to know bats, you realize they are "rock stars." And while you've probably heard the phrase "blind as a bat," it turns out bats are not blind.

"Bats are not flying mice and are not even closely related to rodents," Odegard says. "Bats won't get in your hair because your hair is an obstacle to bats. They echolocate; they won't run into your hair or anything else around you."

Odegard says it is true bats can be infected with rabies, although very few are, but it's important not to touch bats. And vampire bats? Odegard confirms there are three species that feed on blood, mostly cattle blood, but none in North America. She adds Ebola has put bats in an additional negative light, because it is thought the virus is spread to humans through a bat connection. She points out that the bats thought to be a vector for the disease are not the ones we have in the U.S.

The northern long-eared bat, found in Arkansas, has been proposed for Endangered Species Act listing because the population has been devastated by white-nose syndrome. Odegard says that makes the species more sensitive to habitat loss, wind turbine hazards, mining, pesticides, and cave tourism and vandalism.

"Whether it's intentional or unintentional, and whether they're direct or indirect, we can have huge, devastating impacts on bat populations," says Odegard. "Bat populations are in serious trouble, with many of them endangered species at this point."

Arkansas' four congressmen sent a letter of concern over the listing earlier this year, stating that it could interfere with forest harvesting and manufacturing, and stating they don't think white-nose syndrome as a cause of population decline merits a listing for the species.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - AR