Drought’s impact on bugs may hurt Central Valley’s bats

Two local experts say the ongoing drought could have a negative impact on the vitality of bats migrating north through the Central Valley.

Bats make a positive impact by controlling insect populations, but if the bats – traveling thousands of miles – have fewer bugs to eat, their lives are threatened, said Rachael Long, a farm adviser in the Yolo County Cooperative Extension office in Woodland.

Each year, thousands of bats stop in the Sacramento region for a period of weeks during their migration. Most stop in the Central Valley first.

As many as 250,000 Mexican freetail bats utilize the Yolo Causeway as their home from April through October.

“With the drought, there wouldn’t be the abundance of insects. If there is not enough food where they come to rest, by the time they get here they will be weak,” Long said.

The issue was first brought to the region’s attention by Corky Quark, who runs Northern California Bats, a Davis-based rescue organization. She said she’s seen a spike in the number of bats that have come to her in poor health.

Quark said she’s received 10 dehydrated bats in need of care in the last two weeks. They are fed mealworms until they are strong enough to rejoin the colony.

While that number is not staggering, it’s likely that only a very small percentage of ailing bats are brought to anyone’s attention.

Since most of those bats recover quickly, Quark said, she can almost certainly rule out rabies or other illnesses. Her organization, online at www.norcalbats.org, works to educate the public about bats and rescues bats that are referred for care.

Quark has been involved with the nocturnal creatures for nearly a decade.

“It’s not normal for me to have this many bats this time of year,” she said.

Long and Quark said their conclusions are not based on hard data.

Quark said she was “not alarmed, but concerned” by the number of bats she said need care.

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