LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) asks you to celebrate Bat Week with them this week.
According to a news release sent Tuesday by AGFC, bats play a critical role in the health and economy of Arkansas.
The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center will host a special program about bats in the state in an online meeting on Thursday, October 29 at 6:30 p.m. For more information, click here or visit the center’s Facebook page.
According to AGFC officials, there are more than 1,400 species of bats across the world, except in areas of extreme drought and cold.
Bats rid areas of insects that can harm crops and spread disease, according to AGFC. One bat can eat up to its weight in insects each night.
Bats also play a role as pollinators, most notably in Mexico, where they are a major pollinator of agave flowers, according to the news release.
According to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, many bats are in decline worldwide, with about 24% of bats considered critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. Out of the 16 bat species found in Natural State, three species are considered federally endangered: the Ozark big-eared bat, the Indiana bat and the gray bat. The northern long-eared bat is considered federally threatened.
Officials say a serious ongoing threat to bats is a fungal disease called White Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS has killed millions of bats across the United States. According to the news release, the fungus impacts the immune system of the bats during their hibernation period.
WNS was first found in Arkansas in 2012 and is now present in at least 15 counties in the state, according to AGFC officials. Several species such as the little brown bat and tricolored bat have seen their populations decline in Arkansas by 90% or more.
According to officials, there is currently no known cure, but scientists across the world are studying how the disease spreads and what can be done to control it.
AGFC officials say many caves in Arkansas are closed because the fungus can be transmitted from one cave to another clothing and equipment people use when caving.
To learn more about how bats are a part of our daily lives, visit www.batweek.org.
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