Bats are nocturnal flying mammals that feed at night and can be found in both city and rural locations. During the day, they roost in caves, in holes or leaves of trees, in attics or in abandoned buildings. Although they look like a little mouse with wings, they are not related to mice at all, as most people think. Most bats are very tiny with the smallest ones weighting 1.8 grams (weighing less than a dime). It is their wings that make them appear larger, but their body size is generally quite small. They range in size, with the largest ones being flying foxes which are located in the tropics. Their life span is usually 4-8 years, although they can live longer than this. They emit a high pitched shriek or shrill call that is undetectable to human ears.
Some bats have larger ears and have very good hearing and some have a type of sonar that allows them to find their prey at night. If they have large eyes and small ears, then sonar is probably not as important to the bat. They usually hunt for food around ponds, marshes, streams, damp ditches and on the edges of wooded areas.
Bats are migratory in nature and follow the insects south in the winter. They will look for moist, warm caves to hibernate in the winter, so that they don’t dry out, and they do not eat while hibernating. They need quiet and peace in winter so it is best not to disturb their hibernation places as this could be destructive to their survival.
In total there are close to 1000 different species of bats in the world, but in Ontario there are 9 different species of bats, the most common being the Little Brown Bat and the Big Brown Bat. They mate just before they hibernate, are warm blooded and give birth to live young. Most brown bats have only one baby per year, although it is possible for them to have two. They carry their babies on themselves at first and feed them milk.
There are some myths out there that bats will get caught in your hair, attack and bite you or suck your blood. There is such a thing as a Vampire Bat, but it is not located here in our country. So no, they don’t suck your blood and they won’t get caught in your hair. They will however fly close to humans to catch insects attracted to humans and if feeling threatened, they will bite to defend themselves, and they do have very sharp teeth so it is best not to antagonize them.
People automatically assume that if a bat doesn’t fly away it is sick and possibly rabid, but this is not necessarily true. One of the reasons that they don’t fly away, is that while resting, bats drop their body temperature and before they can fly they must warm up and this can take as long as 30 minutes. During this warm up time, they shake and vibrate.
Although Bats can carry rabies, rabid bats usually lose their ability to fly or do not fly well. They rarely become aggressive. Careless handling of bats is the primary source of rabies exposure from bats. Although the percentage of rabid bats is low, any bat should be approached with caution just in case. The major predators of bats are owls, red tailed hawks, snakes, skunks, racoons, and of course humans who sometimes hit them with brooms or tennis rackets.