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August 14, 2006

Houston vs. the bats

photo of bats by Linus Gelber, flickr.com

As reported in today's Los Angeles Times, the people of Houston have declared war on bats. This past spring a 16-year-old Houston boy died from rabies he contracted from a mexican free-tailed bat that flew into his bedroom. This has triggered a bit of a bat hunting frenzy in Houston, with people stomping them, gassing them, whacking them wiht baseball bats. The rabies control lab in Houston has been hit with hundreds of dead bats, brought in by paranoid residents convinced that they've just fought a lethal animal to the death.

Health officials in Houston have pointed out that less than one half of one percent of the bats in Houston have rabies, and that the Houston case is the only rabies death in the entire country this year. That doesn't seem to matter.

Right now the total number of bats killed is quite small, but there's ample president for public opinion toward an animal switching. If the whole "bats are evil" thing really takes off, there could be a significant reduction in the bat population in the region. Given that these bats each eat 2/3 of their weight in mosquitos every night, I hope the people of Houston won't mind lots more cases of West Nile disease.

(Bat photo by Linus Gelber/flickr.com)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at August 14, 2006 09:35 AM