The Flying Leather Mitten Has a Bad Reputation

[THU JUN 8 2017; B12; ’Lentävä nahkarukkanen on maineensa vanki,’ Petri Ojanen]

 

Pictured: a bat.

 

Oh, the horror! A bat flying by is a terrifying sight for many.

It is a shame, for bats are nifty creatures.

 

 

Bats have a very bad reputation. In Europe, ”the flying rat” has been, for no good reason, associated with the devil, demons, and vampires.

 

The Finnish Chiropterologic Association spokesman Asko Ijäs, is vexed by the unfounded fears and ignorance people have about bats. Batwatching supports the overall study of bats, which is not practiced much in Finland.

– It’s often necessary to tell people how things really are with bats. Bats are more afraid of humans than vice versa.

 

Batwatchers include both nature enthusiasts, and average joes who have started to pay attention to the creatures of the night flying around in their backyards. The Finnish Chiropterologic Association currently has less than a hundred members, but its Facebook group has almost 600 followers.

Bats are much more common than people think. Of all the known mammals on the planet, nearly one in four is a species of bat. The nocturnal flying animal just tends to avoid humans.

 

Bats have special abilities like flight and echolocation. Bats are able to change their flight direction and velocity instantaneously, and to use ultrasound in addition to their eyes to sense objects in their path.

Additionally, they hang upside down, and hibernate in winter, slowing their heart rate down and entering suspended animation and dropping their body temperature to near zero degrees Celsius. Some of the species hibernate in Finland, and some travel south.

Peculiarities of bats include delayed fertilization. Bats mate in autumn or winter between hibernations, but the females preserve the sperm in their bodies for months.

Bats give birth around Midsummer, usually to one pup. Bats form a protective ”nursery” in a secluded place: usually inside large trees or abandoned buildings. People can also build bathouses, just like birdhouses.

Female bats have to hunt a great number of bugs at night to be able to suckle their young. Young bats are capable of flight at a few weeks’ age.

In August and September, bats are busy eating their fill for the winter and the coming hibernation.

 

All of Finland’s bat species are insectivores and prefer to hunt in forests, green suburbs, and near bodies of water.

– Southwest Finland has the largest base of bat species, Ijäs confirms.

All of the bat species in Finland are protected, and are part of the EU Nature Directive, which aims to preserve bat breeding and resting locations.

The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats states that bat migration routes and hunting areas are to be taken into account in the planning of land use and the placement of wind turbines. The long, rapidly spinning turbine blades could prove fatal to bats, whose echolocation only has a range of a few dozen meters.

The mortality rate of adult bats is an important factor for the population growth of the slowly reproducing species. The life expectancy of a bat can be up to 15 or even 20 years.

 

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