Bats are one of the most feared, and most important wild animals that a person can have in their backyard.
Bats are mammals, not birds, but they can fly, and do so at night as they hunt for mosquitoes and other flying insects.
Some bats eat nectar from flowers, some eat insects. For example a Brown Bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour. A few bat species feed on frogs and small vertebrates,but the most feared bats are those that feed on blood which they get by biting an animal and feeding on its blood.
It might amaze you to know, but with over 1,000 species, bats represent nearly twenty percent of all known mammal species.
Bats live in colonies and the mothers raise their young by producing milk, much like any other mammal. A female will usually only have one pup at a time.
Bat houses can be built by homeowners who wish to attract bats to their backyard, which is typically done to attract the bats that feed on mosquitoes.
It may be hard to tell if a bat house is being used, but looking on the ground beneath one will show the bat waste, known as guano, small black/brown, droppings, as they start to pile up. This is very high in nutrients and is sometimes used by farmers to fertilize crops.
In homes without bat houses the bats may look for narrow places to rest for the day. This will become their home, and they will return day after day, while hunting at night. As such some bats find themselves entering homes through cracks, or in the case of these photos the bat colony moved in behind a sliding barn door that had been left open for the summer.
When the barn door was being slid shut, the squealing of bats could be heard and a dozen or so fell to the ground, some being mothers with pups clinging to them. It was a cool day and the poor things struggled to warm up so they could move and use their limbs to climb back up to safety.
At this point, as the bats tried to return to their cozy home, it could be seen on a couple some sort of parasite, perhaps a louse. I scraped one off of the one bat in the photo (it can be seen as a small oval shape of lighter color on the bat just to the left of the one in the middle of the picture).
Bats are often feared as carriers of Rabies, indeed if you encounter an active bat in the day time it should not be handled, as this is not a normal time for them to be active. These bats were awakened because of the barn door being open so the risk was minimal (plus having worked in an animal shelter I have been vaccinated against rabies). If a bat ever must be handled do so with gloves, or even a towel. If you are bitten by a bat contact a hospital. Rabies is a slow moving virus so there are no immediate worries about going mad and attacking family members or neighbors. All outdoor pets should be vaccinated against rabies where this virus is active.
*The series of pictures was taken when the bats fell from their cozy home, within 2 hours they were all back to their little space between the barn and the barn door, which shall be left open for the summer so they can continue to live there in peace. All photos by author, not for reproduction.
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