Bats in West Texas? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/31/04

Bats in West Texas?

They make up nearly 1/4 of the mammal population and they're commonly associated with vampires, but what many don't know is that they dwell right here in West Texas. NewsChannel 11 visits the South Plains Wild Life Rehabilitation Center, a place where wounded animals are cared for, to uncover the mysterious creature known as the bat.

"In years back, they were considered sort of evil just like the barn owl with the sorcerer and the witches," explains Gail Barnes, bat expert.

These creatures of the night have gotten a bad rap, but Barnes says these mammals are anything but creepy.

"These are the Mexican Free-Tail Bats. They don't bite. They don't jump at you," Barnes demonstrates.

In fact, these bats can't fly at all. Since they're injured, they can never be released into the wild.

"They know me and they know my smell," she says as she lets one crawl on her shirt.

And you know the old saying "blind as a bat?" Well, it's just not true. It's their ears that are most valuable.

"How they find insects is with their keen sense of hearing, their echo location," says Barnes.

She uses an echo locator to listen to the bats communicate -- sounds we can't normally hear. And even though they're small, these bats can live more than 30 years, even in West Texas.

"They're everywhere. People just don't normally look for them," says Barnes.

Though we don't have caves in Lubbock, you can find bats under bridges. But don't worry, these bats won't suck your blood, but they may find a way to fly into your heart.

By the way, you must have a permit to handle bats. And if you happen to find one, experts warn you shouldn't touch it. Call the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at (806) 799-2142 and they'll be happy to take it in.

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