A family friend posted on Facebook one morning that after waking up to a strange noise in her apartment, she discovered a bat flying about. Horrified, she hunkered down on a stairwell under a blanket until the creature flew out an open window. In her words, she was “completely traumatized.”

I sympathize with her as I was once equally afflicted with chiroptophobia, but after months of research into our state’s bats (and bats in general), I know better.

The words that come to most people’s minds when they hear the word “bat” — rabies, vampire, aggressive — are rooted in myths and misconceptions. Rabies, for example, occurs in less than one-half of 1 percent of bats. Those bats affected with rabies seldom become aggressive and often are paralyzed by the disease. The chances that the bats seen flying in or around your home are afflicted with the disease are incredibly slim.

Of the eight species of bats that live in Maine, none is vampiric. In fact, the only three species of bats the feed on blood exist in Central America. Of those three, only one species feeds on mammalian blood.

Maine’s bats are insectivores and efficient ones at that. Each of our native species consumes hundreds and thousands of insects each night. By doing so, they protect us from diseases such as West Nile virus and malaria. A bat swooping close your head actually has done you a favor.

Maine’s bat populations are in a state of serious decline. White Nose Syndrome has ravaged bats throughout the nation. The last thing these docile, fragile and beneficial creatures need is such a poor reputation. I encourage everyone to pick up a book or browse online to learn more and fear less.

Logan Parker, Augusta

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