Of course we all know about Count D and his humorous or horror filled exploits sucking the blood of innocents. Most of us probably know that there are in fact vampire bats. Three types in fact.
The small bats puncture the veins of mammals and lap up the blood that flows out of the cut. Like most people I thought they were confined to South America. However, they actually range into Mexico, and rarely, into Texas.
Apparently you don’t need to alter any vacation plans because only one vampire bat has been recorded in the United States according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS)
The Fort Worth Star Telegram says that may all be about to change. Apparently the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) is expanding its range and may have Texas and its cattle (and other mammals) in its sights.
According to the Telegram The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) thinks they may already be here in some numbers. The Telegram said:
“Mike Bodenchuk, Texas State Director at the USDA, said they could possibly even be in Texas already.
“The common vampire bat is moving northward from Mexico, it’s approaching the tip of Texas. In fact, there are some vampire bat rabies cases in Nuevo Leon (Mexico, my interpolation) that are farther north than the bottom three counties in Texas,” Bodenchuk said. “So we’ve got the population moving that direction and I would be surprised if they’re not really already here. We just don’t have any confirmation of that, we haven’t had any rabies cases that we can tie directly to the vampire bat. But they’re expanding their range northward and could already be in the state.”
The current estimate is that they are about 40 miles from the border and expanding their range by about 50 miles a year. In theory they could reach San Antonio in a decade.
What will that mean?
It will mean tens of millions of dollars in loss from blood sucking and disease,mostly rabies. Mexico estimates a $47 million vampire bat price tag. But that cost will be offset by perhaps billions of dollars. Vampire bats secrete the appropriately named Draculin. It is named after Count D. Draculin is an anti-coagulant these bats use to keep the blood flowing when they eat. The paper said that drugs for hypertension, heart failure and stroke based on Draculin are on the horizon. Heart ailments are at the very top of the list of causes of death in the United States. Also, Professor Luis Escobar of Virginia Tech is studying vampire bats to examine cross-species spread of viruses. That may have some import for the study of epidemics.
In general Texas welcomes bats with open arms. The Telegram cited studies including those of the USGS estimating that bats save up to $53 billion a year in pest control costs in the United States. Texas is home to 32 of the 47 bat species found in the United States. Most bats eat tremendous numbers of insects. A few specialized species eat fruit and other items.
Bats are also on the menu of other creatures including some spiders, as we have noted.