Bats are widely misunderstood, but not always with good reason. Here are some common myths about bats:
Myth: Bats are rodents.
Fact: Bats may look a little like flying mice, but they’re not related. Bats belong to their own order, Chiroptera, which means hand-wing.
Myth: Bats are blind.
Fact: Many bats have excellent vision.
Bats’ use of their own natural sonar system makes them even better at finding their way in the dark. They send out high-frequency sounds that bounce off objects, and they analyze the echoes that return to determine where insects and obstacles are. That system allows them to detect things as fine as a human hair.
Myth: Bats will get entangled in your hair.
Fact: That fear probably arose from the fact that bats often swoop low over people’s heads at night and fly in seemingly erratic patterns. But the bats are really after insects, not human heads. While it’s not impossible for a bat to get in someone’s hair, it’s an extremely rare occurrence. In the classic 1939 reference book Bats, zoologist Glover M. Allen documented only one case of a bat getting caught in a woman’s hair.
Myth: Bats are a major source of rabies.
Fact: Cases of rabies caused by bats are rare. In the United States from 1995 through 2009, only an average of two people a year died from rabies associated with bats.
Bats can contract and spread rabies, as all mammals can. Anyone who has to handle a bat should use precautions to avoid being bitten, and anyone who does suffer a bat bite should seek medical attention. But the presence of bats does not pose significant public health problems, the conservation organization says.
Sources: Bat Conservation International, Bat World Sanctuary