2020 Watch: Swarms of Vampire Bats Could Be Headed to the U.S.

Global pandemic: Check. Record-setting wildfires: Check. Murder hornets: Check. Possible signs of life on Venus: Check. Vampire bat invasion: we’ll see. Researchers say that as climate change boosts temperatures across the globe, the southern U.S. is becoming more hospitable to vampire bats, who may be slowly moving north from their usual South and Central American habitats. In recent years, they’ve been spotted as close as 30 miles from the Texas border. It’s too soon to say this represents a mass migration but scientists say that in the coming years, the U.S. could get warm enough to host vampire bats.

Despite their spooky name, vampire bats are actually pretty friendly as bats go. “They’re very social and gregarious animals that have coexisted with humans for a really long time,” coauthor Antoinette Piaggio, a molecular ecologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told Popular Science. “We’re not trying to portray these animals as something we should all be scared of.”

There is the blood-sucking thing which, well, yuck. But in general, vampire bats leave humans alone and mostly just like to hang out with their own kind. The only real concern here is rabies, which vampire bats can carry and transmit to wildlife including, occasionally, unvaccinated pets and livestock. Scientists are mindful, but not overly concerned about the possible return of vampire bats to the U.S. “The arrival of this unique and interesting species and eventually a novel (at least in the U.S.) rabies virus variant is not a catastrophic event or cause for significant alarm,” Richard Chipman, the rabies management coordinator, told Popular Science in an email.

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