Bats are using Utah as a route south; while doctors warn people about the dangers, some people enjoy the company of the flying mammals.
The number of bats in Utah has increased considerably with this migration, and according to Lance Madigan, the Utah County Health Department spokesperson, “Each year, as we approach September, bats migrate through Utah on their way to caves in New Mexico and Mexico from up north.”
In addition, Madigan said in a news brief that about one-third of bats found dead or sick in locations accessible for humans and pets in Utah carry rabies (higher average than in other locations). People who have either touched or been attacked by a bat should seek a doctor and, if they were infected, get treatment as quickly as possible. Rabies can be transmitted to humans and animals, infecting the central nervous system, and can cause death.
During hot summer days, bats are vital for controlling the population of mosquitoes. Lonnie McCulloch, a sophomore in linguistics at BYU, from Fountain Green, Utah, was thankful for the bats that are around the Manti area, especially during the Mormon Miracle Pageant. Bats are natural predators of the mosquitoes that cause problems to families during summer months.
“The mosquitoes come in waves, or like clouds. And the bats help extinguish them,” said McCulloch. “If we didn’t have bats there, we’d all probably die,” she added.
Utah and nearby places provide a good environment for bats because of the many caves and a law that prohibits people from killing bats intentionally. During late summer, people can see bats at Tibble Fork Reservoir, near Timpanogos Cave in American Fork Canyon. For more details, go to http://www.nps.gov/tica/index.htm
Kevin Rotherd, a junior in Spanish teaching at BYU, said he enjoys seeing bats coming out of caves at twilight. “In Indiana, where I am from, it is really cool to see the bats flying out of the caves during the last hour of sunlight, and in Utah I have seen a few,” Rotherd said. “But when I go hiking, I don’t like to see them in the caves while they are awake and looking around. I am afraid they will attack me.”
Regardless of species, Madigan said it is always important to be careful. “Enjoy bat sightings from a distance. Never touch or handle a bat.”