Austinites are familiar with the sight of Mexican free-tailed bats flying through the air, but some researchers speculate bats of a slightly scarier variety could soon fly through the capital city sky.
Ivan Castro-Arellano, wildlife disease expert, and his colleagues study vampire bat populations in northern Mexico to keep track of diseases spread by the winged mammal. He uses computer modeling to study how animal populations change over time which is how he found something unexpected in the behavior of vampire bats.
"If you assume these predictions of climate change are right, there's likelihood that these animals will be able to expand their range," he said. "Very, very long term, several decades."
Right now, vampire bats only live in South and Central America, but if the climate continues, they could find their way to Texas. The bats can only survive in a certain conditions.
“Vampire bats can't live for very long in less than 50 degrees, so right now, they couldn't survive here," Susan Kwasniak with Bat Conservation International said.
Fear not. Conservationists and experts say all public concern about the blood-sucking bat likely unwarranted. The bats feed mostly on cattle, not humans.
"It's probably going to be easier to get stuck by lighting than getting bitten by a vampire bat,” Castro-Arellano said. “It will not happen."
As for the bats themselves, nothing’s a sure thing.
"We don't know if they are going to come. There might be other biological limits on them that might not allow them to be here, but again, we don't know,” Castro-Arellano said. Research is the key."