Decline in bat population could hurt bourbon industry - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Decline in bat population could hurt bourbon industry

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Bourbon is booming in Kentucky, but a key factor in the industry is on a rapid decline.

Bats, yes bats, are responsible for bringing us bourbon, tequila, chocolate and a number of fruits and spices, but their population is dwindling for a number of reasons.

“Bats are declining extremely rapidly. It's very, very scary,” said Brigette Williams, Director of Second Chances Wildlife.

But what's really frightening is what would happen if bats no longer existed.

“So if you like to drink, you should like a bat,” Williams said.

Williams rehabs injured bats and other animals. She says bats act as pest control in corn fields, where one of the main ingredients in bourbon is cultivated. Some farmers even attract bats so they don't have to use as many pesticides.

“It’s equated that bats are saving farmers approximately $5.5 billion a year,” Williams said. “Which helps in Kentucky with the bourbon industry.”

Bats are also solely responsible for pollinating the agave plant.

“So if you remove bats from that scenario, you're going to have to unfortunately have to remove tequila,” Williams said.

The small mammals can also save lives when it comes to the Zika Virus and West Nile.

“They eat thousands and thousands of mosquitoes every night and we know that mosquitoes potentially can carry a lot of viruses,” Williams said.

So in just one hour, a bat eats 1,000 mosquitoes. But because of human disturbance and White Nose Syndrome, a fungus that wakes them up in winter and causes them to starve because there's no food source, they're dying by the millions.

“It’s a big problem that we’re facing,” Williams said.

Bats only give birth to one pup a year, so that low of a birth rate, coupled with a high death rate, is a recipe for disaster.

A common misconception is that all bats have rabies. But according to the CDC, less than half of one percent of bats have the disease.

For information on how to help the bat population, click here.

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