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The flying mammals are good for us, Cranbrook official says

By: Natalie Lombardo

The Oakland Press

Contrary to popular belief, bats are not poisonous or dangerous, and there are no blood-sucking vampire bats in the United States, one expert says.

"Bats aren't blind and they don't get stuck in your hair either. But the most detrimental myth is that bats are not good for anything," said Rob Mies, director of the Organization for Bat Conservation at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills.

Mies, with other local bat lovers, wants Oakland County residents to accept the misunderstood animal, especially in August, when juvenile bats take to the skies and sometimes mistakenly fly into homes.

Although bats can get into people's attics, barns or living rooms, they are vital to the ecosystem because they naturally rid it from common insects.

In fact, one bat consumes 2,000 to 5,000 insects each night, including mosquitoes, beetles, June bugs, moths and mayflies, Mies said.

Bats are the only mammal that can fly. They consume so much for energy to do so.

There are nine species in the state, the most common in southeast Michigan being eptesicus fuscus, also known as the big brown bat. It's the size of a chicken egg and weighs about 20 grams, or the weight of four nickels. Its wingspan is 12-14 inches.

Bats have 32 sharp teeth. The nose is broad, the lips are fleshy; the eyes are large and bright. The ears are rounded, according to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology's Web site, Animal Diversity Web.

They are capable of living up to 19 years in the wild, though many die during their first winter.

Normally, they live in trees, especially dead ones.

"Humans are cutting down their natural habitat. We don't want them living in our houses, but we need them around so they can eat insects," Mies said.

Ortonville-based Critter Catchers, Inc. is a company that performs humane removal of bats from homes and businesses, he noted.

The company has been flooded with calls this month, most are people who live in the suburbs with bats trapped indoors, said sales manager Tiffany Rollings. Workers determine where the bats are getting in -- all they need is 3/8 of an inch. Usually, it's around the roof line, she said. Then, a one-way door is installed over the openings so the bats can fly out but can't re-enter.

"This is the safest, easiest way to get them out. They're forced to move on and find another place to live," Rollings said, adding that she's heard some pest control companies use glue boards to snag bats.

Still, the exclusion service isn't conducted in the middle of summer, as the young bats aren't able to fly yet. They would be trapped inside and left to die.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources refers complaints about bats to removal services like Critter Catchers, said Todd Hogrefe, DNR endangered species coordinator. But bat houses provide a haven, keeping them out of the home but near the backyard, he said. The bat house should be mounted on a pole, structure or tree in proximity to the home entrance the bats are using. "We need bats," Hogrefe said.

"They provide a valuable service for those who don't enjoy getting mauled by bugs during the summer."

Critter Catchers, Inc.
P.O. Box 312, Lake Orion, MI 48361
(248) 432-2712

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