Date of Award
Open Access Master's Thesis
Master of Science in Forest Ecology and Management (MS)
Administrative Home Department
School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
Committee Member 1
Committee Member 2
Bats can act as potential vectors for various zoonotic diseases and other pathogens. Therefore their interactions with people should be examined to mitigate potential risks. Bats are small flying mammals and hide in small crevices during daylight hours, making them difficult to observe. Consequently, they have a capacity to “hitchhike” on ships to be dispersed over large distances.
This study focused on anthropogenic unintentional bat translocations, i.e. hitchhiking bats. The study area is the Great Lakes region in North America. Using a web-based questionnaire survey, I asked the public about the frequency of bat-human encounters on ships, their nature, and perceived risks and incidents.
I found that bats are commonly seen by people working on ships at the Great Lakes. Bats do not cause trouble other than scaring people. Based on photographic evidence, at least one bat was seen on a ship outside of its native range. Therefore ships might act as vectors, helping bats to disperse to new areas. This might provide pathways for pathogens to spread along, from bats to bats or from bats to humans.
The risks related to hitchhiking bats seem to be rather limited. Rabies risk is the most obvious, but no cases of sailors getting rabies infections from bats were acknowledged. The possibility of ships translocating bats infected with Pseudogymnoascus destructans remains unknown.
This study demonstrates how by engaging the public it is possible to gather novel scientific knowledge, and deepen our understanding about the relationship between man and wildlife. There are numerous hidden ways of how people interact with animal species. This study illuminates one of these ways, but many more are yet to be studied.
Lohi, Saska E.H., "Hitchhiking Bats on the Great Lakes of North America", Open Access Master's Thesis, Michigan Technological University, 2015.