The little brown bat is touted to become Washington DC’s “state” mammal. The DC Council passed a bill designating the animal as the district’s official mammal.
In March 2019, three Girl Scout troops met with Councilmember Charles Allen to present on local bats and how they are widely misunderstood creatures that need to be protected. Based on their presentation, Allen introduced Bill 23-302, Little Brown Bat Official State Mammal Designation Act of 2019.
The DC Council has favored the bill on September 22, bringing the bat one step closer to becoming the district’s official mammal.
Protecting the Brown Bat
The furry, flying animal has in recent years been hard hit by the white-nose disease, like many bat species across North America. This disease is caused by a fungus that came in from the caves of Europe. It only affects hibernating species of bats. Contaminated bats are likely to be more dynamic while they are attempting to conserve energy to endure harsh winters.
In recent years, large swaths of bat populations have been wiped out by the fungal pathogen. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared that “the infection causes wing deterioration, water loss, and arousals that cost bats their critical energy reserves.”
Bats are the only mammals that can fly. Similar to migrating birds, bats too fly over land, along coastlines, and over the water. “Each spring, [DC’s] bats return and grow strong after the long drain of winter by feasting on the District’s insects,” according to the Department of Energy and Environment.
Upon learning of bats’ benefits, the Girl Scout troops proposed that the species be named the state mammal of DC.
— Charles Allen (@charlesallen) January 27, 2020
Although not an official state, DC has a large number of state symbols — an official state bird (the wood thrush), fruit (cherry), and even dinosaur (Capitalsaurus). The District also has a state rock, a state tree, and a state fruit. However, a group of Girl Scout troops thought that there was something missing. They believed that bats needed both the attention and protection offered by an official DC designation.
There has been some conversation on the DC Council about whether to honor an alternate animal — for instance, the big brown bat, which has likewise been hard hit by the white-nose disease. Despite odds like habitat loss and fungal diseases, this species can promptly adjust to human-made structures. However, their counterparts, the little brown bats, haven’t been seen in the District for over 15 years.
The bill still needs a final vote. If passed, it will be a big step to increase awareness about the declining little brown bat population. This will also go on to prove that children can be effective advocates for social change. After all, the cherry and Capitalsaurus gained their official status after lobbying from school kids.