by Karie Divelbiss-Harding
Bats are flying mammals. Mammals are warm-blooded vertebrates that nourish their young with milk and are covered in hair or fur. These mammals are somewhat different than most because they can fly. Scientists have placed them in the order called Chiroptera which literally means hand-wing.
Bats are found everywhere in the world except in areas with extreme cold or extreme heat and dry conditions. The United States and Canada can claim 47 different species. The most common species in this part of Indiana are the big brown bat, little brown bat and the eastern red bat. We will occasionally get different species too.
An interesting fact about bats is that they have delayed fertilization. This means that they mate in the fall, but fertilization occurs in the spring after the bats finish hibernating. The length of their gestation period is about 45 days. When bats are born the mother, who usually hangs upside-down, will hang upright with their claws.*
Another fact about bats is their night flight. Bats use echolocation as a means to navigate through the night sky as well as their good eyesight. Echolocation is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "a physiological process for locating distant or invisible objects (as prey) by sound waves reflected back to the emitter (as a bat) from the objects.** Studies have been done to test the vision of bats. Some bats were blindfolded and their nightly flights seemed inconsistent with their course compared to night flights with use of their eyesight.
Although bats have had a bad reputation, they are actually very helpful creatures. The number one threat to bats are humans, who have most likely received misleading information about them. Bats feed on night flying insects. In a study by scientists at Indiana State University, they "estimated the number of insects eaten by one colony of about 300 bats in Clay County, Indiana, at about 6.3 million insects per year!"***
Even though bats are very helpful many people have killed bats based on folk tales, the stink of their guano, and their unwanted presence in living spaces. Is is not normal for bats to fly into your hair or suck your blood, they are not flying mice or blind. Bats are not known to carry lice, and it is a misconception that rabies is a serious problem.
So, what should be done if bats are a nuisance? Firstly, one would never kill bats. Also, please do not touch bats. If they are scared they will bite. Please try to find solutions to any problems bats are creating before misplacing the bats. There are many people who work to help these creatures. If you need to contact someone in Allen County please call the park at 449-3777 and we can give you information for the bat rehabilitator in the area.
***Whitaker, John O. Jr., Bats of Indiana, Indiana State University