Most rabies cases in New Jersey involve raccoons, but so far this year 11.1 percent of the 81 recorded incidents were due to bats. Although wildlife experts warn residents to be careful, they note that less than 0.5 percent of wild bats carry rabies and bats are considered relatively harmless creatures.
Wildlife experts are asking the public to help them learn more about the state’s bats. Since 2003, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and the Endangered and Nongame Species Program have been running a citizen-science project called Summer Bat Count to help track the locations of the state’s bat populations over time. Last year, volunteers monitored 1,300 bats at 12 nesting areas in Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Warren and Cape May counties. Researchers hope larger sample sizes in the future will lead to a more accurate map of the Garden State’s bat colonies.
If you’ve noticed bats living in your barn or backyard during the summer, you can contribute to the research by filling out this form with data from four observations. You’ll have to wait until next year, though, as the study requires two counts between May 15 and June 21 and two more between July 6 and July 31.
In the meantime, munch on this fact: one little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) can eat over 1,200 insects an hour.