Bat Myths

What you don't know about bats could kill you. That's because the majority of people who have been bitten by a rabid bat approached the bat--the bat did not approach them. You may not have known that, but as Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports most of what you know about bats may be wrong.

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We all know that bats are blind.

"Bats can see just about as well as we can some can see even better."

Bats are like flying mice.

"They're about as closely related to a mouse as they are to a giraffe."

Bats attack people and get tangled in their hair.

"It is just physically impossible for a bat to get tangled up in someone's hair."

Amanda Lollar is the founder of Bat World Sanctuary in Mineral Wells, Texas. She says another persistent myth about bats is that they suck blood.

"Seventy percent of all the bats in the world eat insects and most of the other 30% eat pollen and nectar and fruit. Only three bats out of a thousand different kinds do actually drink the blood of other mammals. Vampire bats are very small and they're limited to Latin America."

And Lollar says they get blood from animals and do not bite people. But bats can be a problem. The most serious is that they, like other mammals, get rabies. Lollar says less then one half of one percent of bats has rabies, but most people who get rabies get it from bats.

"The problem is that people, when they find bats on the ground, they're very small and look helpless and unfortunately a lot of people pick them up. And so more people are exposed from bat rabies because they pick them up more often. People wouldn't pick up a different animal like a skunk, or coyote or a fox that is lying on the ground, they generally leave them alone."

Lollar says unlike other rabies infected mammals, bats are generally not aggressive when they get rabies. They just want to go somewhere and quietly die, and that is when they can end up in a yard and when people tend to approach them. Even a sick bat will try to defend itself and that's how people get bitten. Lollar says most accounts of bats attacking someone turn out to be false and further investigation reveals the person touched the bat.

Bats can get into your home the Bat World Sanctuary web site has ways to safely catch and release bats. You'll find a link to the site at kuhf.org. Bat World Sanctuary has lots of information about bats including links to local rehabilitation and rescue resources you can call if you find a bat. Don't kill them, not only are bats protected, but they are very beneficial. They eat millions of tons of insects every year, and are directly linked to 450 commercial products and 60 medicines. Lollar says consider the many hundreds of thousands of people who have gathered at the Congress Street Bridge in Austin to watch bats. She says there's never been one case of rabies reported. Lollar says the bottom line is very simple.

"Protect yourself, protect them, never handle a bat bare handed."

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...