What has leathery wings and needle-sharp teeth, feeds at night, and drinks blood?
Vampire bats are native to South and Central America and Mexico. They like warm, humid areas and struggle if temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
But winters are getting warmer as the climate changes, so the bats may move north, even going as far as Florida or southern Texas.
“What people are most concerned about with vampire bats is them feeding on livestock and then passing rabies virus,” says bat ecologist Mark Hayes.
Using climate data and records of bat sightings, he worked with USDA researchers to model where the bats might show up over the next 50 years.
Natural resource managers can then use those maps to identify areas where they should monitor livestock.
“For example, the USDA has personnel who look at cattle that are brought together in lots, feed lots and so forth,” Hayes says, “and evaluate them very quickly for potential vampire bat bites.”
Because the threat is real, not just a spooky Halloween tale.
Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.