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September 2009 More Bats

We learned so many cool things about bats during the evening program two weeks ago, we thought we'd share some of it with you.

 Norma Lewis and Vicky Smith brought three species of bats to show us. In a rather large cage were two female Egyptian fruit bats named Cleo and Isis. They are about 6 inches long, and a delicate tawny color with a pointed face. As the children gathered around, the bats shivered from excitement, and their small ears twisted and turned to catch the sounds around them.

 In a small plastic box was a tiny Mexican free-tail bat. “Juanita” had been injured and could not fly, but she scrabbled around in her box. She is only three inches long from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail and a dark gray.

 “Sparky”, a Southern myotis, is 2 inches long and dark brown in color was in another small plastic cage. He, too had been injured so had to be fed by his caretakers.

 We learned that there are bats that catch fish and quite a few that eat fruits. In countries where mangos are a cash crop the bats can cause a hardship for the fruit growers when they nibble bites from all the hanging ripe fruit.

 In many countries bat droppings, called guano, is gathered and sold for fertilizer. It doesn't have a pleasant smell as anyone who has had bats in their attic can attest to.

 Generally bat females have one young, called a pup, in spring. Most species carry the young along with them when they fly out at dusk to feed. As the pups grow and get too heavy to carry they may be left hanging in the colonies' shelter when mom goes out.

 Bats toes face backwards from most animals in order to hang facing the wall, which helps them fly off. Mother nature has given them a different circulation system to compensate for their upside down preference.

 If a bat falls to the ground it might appear injured. It cannot walk normally along the ground due to the structure of its arm bones that form its “wings”, and weaker leg muscles. The bat will get airborne in due time.

 The bat-ladies both stated strongly that we should never attempt to pick up any bat with our bare hands. They have very sharp teeth and claws that can give serious injury and could easily become infected. There is always a small chance that the bat, like any wild mammal, could be infected with rabies.

 Bats have a few enemies: snakes and hawks are their animal foes, but bats often are struck by fast moving vehicles like semis. It's been discovered that wind blades disturb the air in a manor that interferes with bats' breathing when they get close. And they are often confused by tiny meshes like screens and bird nets.

 Our bat-ladies offered to help if someone gets a bat in their home or notices an injured bat. We have the contact information at Frog Quarters.

 First try to let them out of the house by opening an outside door or window, turning off the room lights, and closing off the room from the rest of the house if possible. They will usually fly out on their own when they sense the outside opening. If you must handle them, do so only with heavy leather gloves, or try to capture them in a heavy box.

 Because bats are such great insect eaters, they are worth supplying a bat house for their summer stay. A house 30 x 13 x 6 inches will house about 100 little brown bats! Plans may be found on the internet at Bat Conservation International and US Fish and Wildlife Service websites.