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Oklahoma Bats

. . . Coming Out of the Dark

Bat Trivia


Do bats lay eggs? No. All bats give birth to one or two naked young a year. A newborn bat has well developed feet and claws that it uses to cling to its mother or to roost when the mother leaves to eat. Disturbances of maternity roosts can result in large numbers of young bat deaths. When disturbed, the mother bat becomes excited and flies, jerking the young bats and causing them to fall.

Are bats blind? No. Bats have small eyes that are functional and sensitive to light. Several Oklahoma bats, such as Rafinesque's and Townsend's big-eared bats, have greatly enlarged ears to help in echolocation, but bats also use sight to perceive their environment.

How do bats eat? Once they locate an insect, they often trap it with their wing or tail membranes and then reach down and take the insect into their mouth. This action, as well as the chase, results in the erratic flight most people are familiar with when they observe bats feeding in the late evening or around lights at night.

Are bats dangerous? All healthy bats try to avoid humans by taking flight and are not purposely aggressive. Most bats in Oklahoma are about the size of a mouse and use their small teeth and weak jaws to grind up insects. You should avoid handling bats because several species, such as the hoary and big brown bats, have large teeth that can puncture skin if they are handled improperly.

What about bats and rabies? Less than one percent of the population contracts the disease, a lower rate of incidence than other mammals such as skunks. Still, you should not handle or disturb bats, especially those that are active and appear sick during daylight hours. All bat bites should be washed immediately with soap and water, and a physician should be consulted.

Are there really vampire bats? Yes, but not in Oklahoma. Of the three species of vampires in North America, only a single specimen has been recorded for the United States in extreme southwest Texas. Vampires do not suck blood--they make a small incision with their sharp front teeth and lap up the blood with their tongue. Vampires in Mexico and South America feed on the blood of livestock such as cattle and horses, as well as deer, wild pigs and even seals.

Where do bats live? In general, bats seek out a variety of daytime retreats such as caves, rock crevices, old buildings, bridges, mines and trees. Different species require different roost sites. Some species, such as the Mexican free- tailed and gray bats live in large colonies in caves. A few solitary species, such as the red bat, roost in trees.

Do bats hibernate? Yes. Oklahoma bats either hibernate in winter or migrate to warmer areas. Those that hibernate build up a fat reserve to sustain them through the winter. If they are disturbed, their fat reserve could become exhausted and they could die prior to spring.


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