Bat week aiding conservation efforts

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (WDEF) – ”A lot of the bats we have here actually live under the bark of trees in the summertime. So if you see a dead tree in the woods, that tree could be a really important house for a bat or other animals,” said Philip Earhart, South Zone Wildlife Biologist.

Although we don’t often see bats they are hard at work every night.

“Bats eat their body weight each night in insects. So they’re a great species to have around your house. They’re also really important in other places for pollination for a lot of the food we like to eat,” said Earhart.

There are several species of bats in the Cherokee National Forest. Three of which are at risk.

“The northern long-eared bat which is threatened, the gray Bat which is endangered, and the Indiana bat which is endangered,” said Earhart.

Bat week is using Halloween season to show kids and adults how important bats are and why they are crucial to the ecosystem.

“And our purpose this week is just an educational opportunity for folks to learn about bats. What about that, we have here in the forest and ways we can do management to help that’s because they’re really important to us,” said Earhart.

There is a one-mile trail around the Ocoee Whitewater Center. Each bat station along the way will provide information about these important animals, using pictures and app technology to help visitors better understand bats.

“Sometimes bats get a bad rap I think. This is a good opportunity to tell people about what bats really do in the ecosystem, how important they are. Making sure that we tell that story about them,” said Earhart.

He adds bats have also been impacted by a disease, which humans can spread.

“Keeping folks at the caves, there’s been a very devastating disease here since about 2007 in this country it’s called white-nose syndrome. It’s a fungus that actually gets on the bat’s nose and turns white. Folks can accidentally spread that when they go in and out of caves and then bats obviously when they hibernate get very close together which makes the transmission of the disease really prolific,” said Earhart.

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