Bats are our friends

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They are one of the most feared creatures around, but that may be because bats are also one of the least understood.

"The biggest misconception is that bats are vermin. They're rodents. They should be gotten rid of," says conservationist Rob Meis.

He tells me bats are actually, in many ways, our protectors- and vital to our survival, "Bats around the world pollinate plants like bananas and agave. Bats also spread seeds, so fruit bats in the rain forest spread seeds and plant new trees."

There are over 14-hundred bat species in the world, and nine of them live in Michigan. Far from craving human blood, Michigan bats are much more interested in bugs- one bat can eat 5,000 of them in one night.

"Bats in the great lakes are really important because they eat so many insects," Meis says, "We would not be able to grow crops, we wouldn't be able to go outside at night if all the bats disappeared."

But an invasive European fungus is killing bats off at an alarming rate, Meis says, "As a matter of fact, in Michigan we are somewhere between and 50 and 75 percent less bats than three years ago."

Meis is co-founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation. The group is opening a new, 10-thousand square foot bat sanctuary in Pontiac. The new sanctuary is actually the former "Bat Zone" at Cranbrook Institute in Bloomfield Hills.

Meis says the mission remains the same, saving bats, and changing minds about the winged mammals, "They have fur. they have babies- one at a time," Meis says, "They clean their babies, groom them. They feed their babies. They have a lot of similarities to humans."

If you want to check out the bat sanctuary in person, the grand opening July first. There is also a bat cam at the Organization for Bat Conservation's website.

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