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Dead bats preserved with their wings stretched out and fit for hair barrettes are now being sold on Ebay and Etsy online.

National Geographic reported that last October alone, over 500 listings of dead bats appeared on Etsy and 71 on eBay and a few on other platforms. While many of the advertisements mentioned Halloween, some listed the dead bats as Christmas gifts, according to a new, unpublished study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature bat research group that Joanna Coleman,  a bat specialist, and professor, co-leads.

Coleman said that it is disturbing and that many bats ‘reproduce slowly’ which makes them vulnerable to overexploitation. While bats are often sold as framed specimens, in the last year, searches for things like “saw bat hats, barrettes, and garter belts” have gone up.

Over 130 ads from last year featured painted woolly bats, and it is possible that 117 other postings were for those bats, too, Nistara Randhawa says. Randhawa is a data scientist at the University of California Davis who has been searching through e-commerce platforms to find listings of painted woolly bats.

While it is not clear who is doing the hunting, taxidermy, and selling, it is clear that this is a huge issue. Painted woolly bats are not bred commercially, and they live alone or with family units of three during part of the year, National Geographic reported.

The team is now working to find out if the ads online were for painted wooly bats or other bat species, and they were just identified incorrectly.

Most people think that bats are terrifying, bloodthirsty animals. This misconception largely comes from fictional films featuring bats or bat-like characters, but because of these imaginary portrayals of bats, these creatures get a pretty bad rap. What most people don’t know is that bats play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem. These animals help to pollinate a large portion of our food supply and control mosquito populations.

Unfortunately, bat populations are dwindling due to habitat loss and the spread of a disease called white-nose syndrome. Without bats, nearly half of the fruits we enjoy wouldn’t exist, and insect populations would be out of control. Luckily, many organizations are working to help the bat population recover.

Sign this petition to save the bats!

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