LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Scientists say the population of certain bat species in Arkansas are on the decline because of a deadly disease.
Arkansas Game and Fish Spokesperson Trey Reid said this is an issue Arkansans should be worried about.
"They are an important part of our ecosystem. . One of the big things is they eliminate a lot of unwanted insects. Some studies say they can eat their weight in insects in a single night of feeding,” Reid said. “They can eat as many as 1200 mosquitos in an hour.”
Not only are bats saving us from mosquitoes bites, they are also saving the agriculture industry.
"Some estimates say that they save as much as $3 billion a year in the removal of unwanted pests in the form of insects,” Reid said.
But a disease called White Nose syndrome is killing them off here in Arkansas. It was detected back in 2012, but researchers say it is starting to pick back up.
"This fungus is white in color and appears on the nose of the bats and we have seen some pretty significant drops in the bat population as a result of that,” Reid said.
He said Arkansas Game and Fish is taking precautions to ensure the tiny mammals do not get sick.
“We have closed caves on our wildlife management areas as a result. People can go into the caves and pick up the fungus and the if they go into another cave they are spreading it around,” Reid said.
Arkansans can help by building bat houses in their yards, to help them feed in safe places.
"We encourage people to do things that support and help very wildlife species,” Reid said.
But with the bat population on the decline, researchers are working hard to make sure they sure they're here to stay.
“Each animal whether we hunt for them or not play an important part in our environment and ecosystem. You lose one component of an ecosystem and sometimes the dominos start to fall and other animals are affected,” Reid said.
For steps on how to build a bat house, visit the Arkansas Game and Fish website here.