SAN MARCOS, Texas -- Researchers are predicting Texas may soon not only have to deal with the record drought, but vampire bats as well.
According to researchers at Texas State University, vampire bats are "expanding their range in Mexico as a result of climate change, and computer models indicate they could become year-round Texas residents within 50 years."
Ivan Castro-Arellano, a biologist and wildlife disease expert in the Department of Biology at Texas State University-San Marcos, believes warmer winters might allow the animals to expand into Texas earlier than predicted. He says the bats “will not survive in places that go below 10 degrees Celsius (50° Fahrenheit) for a sustained period of time."
While some bats can be beneficial to the environment because of their insect-based diet, vampire bats could post a dangerous threat to livestock.
According to Texas State researchers, "The bats target cattle and other livestock, approaching the animal on the ground, and licking it with anesthetic saliva that also prevents blood from clotting. Then it bites the victim with razor-sharp teeth and laps up the free-flowing blood. Since they feed on mammals, they can easily spread rabies and infect herds of domestic livestock. They also tend to target the same victim night after night, and repeated feedings can kill individual animals."
In order to avoid potentially devastating consequences of vampire bats, Castro-Arellano says prevention is key. He plans to explore possible areas were the bats might roost, and if those areas show stable temperatures -- an early warning sign -- strategies for dealing with the bats could be put into place.
“I think the scenario is set," Castro-Arellano said. "It’s obviously not going to happen next year, but if we don’t anticipate their arrival, by the time these animals are here we will be ill-prepared,” he said. “It’s mostly preparation, which I think will be a good strategy, because the investment is going to be little compared to the probable impact. That’s the cost/benefit ratio of doing things versus not doing anything. With vampire bats, it’s a no brainer.”