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Karlie Tipton, Editorial Assistant
Photo by JOHN JERNIGAN
The Dark Cavern of My Heart
By Karlie Tipton
May 3, 2012
Sometimes, I have a tendency to stick up for creatures that might not deserve it. At my first house in Norman, my fiancé helped me devise an elaborate trap—involving peanut butter, a trash can, and a coffee filter—after we couldn’t find a humane way to capture the mice who had moved in. We ended up catching and releasing three of them—or maybe the same one three times; I’m no rodentologist. In any case, I went to great measures to ensure that no creatures were harmed in my home, even though I lost at least five loaves of bread and was terrified of catching the Hanta virus.
But there’s one animal I find myself defending lately that shouldn’t need defending at all: bats. I will concede that those belonging to the order Chiroptera are prone to carry diseases like rabies due to their communal lifestyle, but out of millions of bats in the U.S., only one half of one percent are believed to be carriers, and less than 50 cases of rabies in the country have been attributed to bats since 1960. Furthermore, people tend to classify bats as “flying rodents,” but that is not the case; they are genetically more similar to llamas than they are to rats.
Although there are plenty of other negative misconceptions about bats, the obvious benefits they provide are much more interesting. Like their feathered friends, bats are vital in spreading the pollen and seeds of plants. In fact, bats are the sole pollinator for many topical flowers. Flying fox guano is one of the richest forms of fertilizer and was even used at one point to make gunpowder. But what really cemented my admiration for the bat is its appetite for insects. I don’t know how you could not love a creature that can eat up to 3,000 mosquitoes in a single night.
Luckily, Oklahoma is the perfect place to feed my love of these nocturnal fuzzies. The Sooner State is home to about 23 species, including the threatened–and so-ugly-it’s-adorable—Ozark big-eared bat. I plan on seeing quite a few of these—around a million, to be exact—leaving their roost at the Selman Bat Watch this year in July (sign-up begins May 29, and reservations are required). I’ve already started reading up on my favorite (well, the only) flying mammals, bought a pair of binoculars, and picked out the perfect observing blanket. But I don’t have to worry about the bug spray; my little friends will take care of me.