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Bats

 

Many different species of bats live in Idaho, but we rarely see them. Why? Because bats are mostly nocturnal, meaning that they come out at night to feed and then they sleep during the day. Why would they do this? Because most bats like to eat insects that come out at night. Also, many predators that would hunt bats do not come out at night.   

Dowload this publication and take it with you to see if you can identify Idaho's bats in the wild.

Little brown bats in a cave 
Photo courtesy Nancy Heaslip, NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Not "Blind as a Bat"

Many people think that bats are blind, but that is not true. Some bats can see very well. Bats use something called “echolocation” to find their prey.  Bats send out sound waves using their mouth or nose. When the sound hits an object, an echo comes back to the bat, which tells the bat what the object is. Bats can even tell the size and shape of a small insect from its echo! This is how bats find their food and their homes in the dark.  

echolocation: bat to insect 
The bat sends out sound waves to an insect.
echolocation: insect to bat
The bat receives sound waves back, telling the insect's location and size.

Why are bats important?

Bats are important animals. They live all over the world, and they serve many purposes. Tropical bats eat fruit, and then drop seeds on the ground, which helps to plant new fruit trees. Other bats eat nectar from flowers, and when they go from flower to flower, they help pollinate other plants. Pollination helps to create new flowers. There are other bats that eat meat and fish, but most bats, (about 70%) eat insects. Why is this good? They help control pesky insects, like mosquitoes and flies.   

Why do people think of all bats as vampires?

There is one kind of bat called a “vampire bat.” They live in Mexico and Central and South America, and they feed on the blood of cows, pigs, horses, and birds. These bats are so small and light that they can drink blood from an animal for up to 30 minutes without the animal noticing. This feeding does not hurt the animal, and these bats very rarely drink blood from humans. They prefer other animals, not humans! Most bats, however, do not drink blood.   There are no blood-drinking bats in Idaho.    

White Nose Syndrome is Killing America's Bats  

Bats on the Move

Bats also migrate, which means that they change their locations as seasons change. Click here to find out more about migrating bats.

You can also visit BLM's Hands on the Land website about bats. 

Learn more about Idaho's bats by reading the October 2010 issue of Wildlife Express!

Do all bats carry rabies?

No! Very few bats have the rabies virus, and fewer still become sick from it. It is rare for a human to catch rabies from a bat. The best way to avoid contacting anything from a wild animal is to never touch a wild animal. Animals, when picked up, will bite in self defense, and bats are no exception. What if an animal picked you up? Would you bite and fight? You bet! 

So, if you see a bat or any other wild animal, never pick it up or touch it. If bitten by any wild mammal or stray dog or cat, contact a local public safety office, animal control office, or county health department to have the animal sent for testing. If unsure whether a bite occurred, have the bat tested anyway to be sure. For more information on rabies and wildlife and when to consider post-exposure treatment, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.

Bats are very interesting creatures and they are fun to watch, but remember to leave them alone. Please, NEVER touch a wild bat, even if you are just trying to help. If you see an injured bat, do not pick it up with your bare hands. 

Follow these instructions from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game:

People don’t get rabies from just seeing a bat in an attic, in a cave or at a distance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nor do people get rabies from touching bat guano, blood, or urine or from touching a bat on its fur. But anyone who is bitten by a bat, or gets saliva in their eyes, nose or mouth, should seek medical attention immediately. When possible, the bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for testing. Call the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories at 208-334-2235.

In addition, bats found in a room with a person who cannot reliably rule out physical contact – for example a sleeping person, a child, a mentally disabled person or an intoxicated person – need to be tested for rabies. If contact has occurred or is suspected call a physician or local health department immediately.
 
If no contact has occurred, follow the directions below to rescue a bat.
 
A Bat Found Indoors
A bat found indoors is most likely a crevice-dwelling species. The color of crevice-dwelling bats varies but is usually gray or brown. These are often lost young or migrating bats. Often they will find their way out through an open window after dark, if the room is closed off from the rest of the house. Or if the bat can be moved without touching or injuring it, proceed to step one. Otherwise, proceed to step five.
 
Step 1. Wait until the animal is motionless. A flying bat is almost impossible to catch, and the chance of injury is greater. Flying bats also are more likely to panic and bite. Wait until the bat lands, then proceed to step 2.
 
Step 2. Contain the bat. Quietly approach the bat, and wearing thick gloves or using a thick soft cloth, such as a T-shirt, gather up the bat, holding it securely but not tightly and put it in a box with a lid. Or simply put a box, can or similar object over the bat where it has landed. Then gently slide a piece of cardboard between the box and the surface the bat is on. With the cardboard in place, gently turn the container right side up.
 
If the bat is captured during the day, proceed to step 5. But don’t put the bat in a bird cage or container with small openings. Bats can easily squeeze through a quarter- by half-inch crack. If the bat is captured at night, proceed to step 3.
 
Step 3. Release the bat outdoors. Take along a flashlight and a thick soft cloth or gloves in case the bat has problems flying away. From an elevated area, such as a deck or ladder, lift the box over your head and tilt it to the side so the bat can fly out. The bat will not be able to fly out of a container in a vertical position. Proceed to step 4. Do not release the bat during the day or during cold or bad weather. Instead, proceed to step 5.
 
Step 4. Watch it leave. Use the flashlight to watch the bat fly away. If the bat doesn’t fly, or seems unable to, it may be injured or sick. It may be a disoriented juvenile, or it may simply be dehydrated or starved from being trapped indoors. If this is the case, use the thick soft cloth or gloves to gather up the bat. It is not safe to attempt care for the bat. It should be treated by trained, vaccinated individuals. Furthermore, bats in this condition may need injections of electrolytes in addition to specialized food and caging.
 
Keep the bat in the closed container in a safe place and proceed to step 5.
 
Step 5. Call a local wildlife rehabilitator. In the Boise area, call Animals in Distress Association at 208-367-1026. To find a local wildlife rehabilitator or bat worker, see http://www.batworld.org and click on Local Rescue, or call Bat World Sanctuary at 940-325-3404 for help in finding a Bat World rescue center or a bat rehabilitator.
 
A Bat Found Outdoors
Foliage-roosting bats have beautiful fur in shades of reds, yellows and tans – like dried leaves, or they have multi-colored fur frosted with white. These bats are frequently found on the ground during migration, in the early summer when mothers are moving their young, or when they become grounded following storms. The only foliage-roosting bat in Idaho is the hoary bat, which is large with distinctive mixed dark brownish and grayish fur frosted with white. Another species commonly found outside is the silver-haired bat, a smaller tree-roosting bat with dark brown to black fur with silvery-white tips. When humans approach, these bats occasionally panic and defend themselves by spreading their wings in mock-attack and making loud hissing or clicking noises.
 
If the bat is a light tan, gray, or brown, it is probably a crevice-dwelling species. Crevice-dwelling bats found on the ground out of doors need to be examined and cared for by a wildlife rehabilitator. Put the bat into a container using the method described above and proceed to step five.
 
Otherwise, to rescue a foliage- or tree-roosting bat, follow the steps below. Or simply proceed to step five.
 
Step 1. Make sure the bat is safe from predators. Protect the bat from domestic pets, ants or other predators, such as crows or magpies. If the bat remains quiet and still, proceed to step two. If the bat panics, proceed to step 5.
 
Step 2. Do not use your hands. Instead, gently touch a small branch, two or three feet in length, to the bat’s feet. This usually initiates a grab reflex, and the bat will grip the branch with its toes. Carefully lift the branch to inspect the bat – or mother bat with babies during the summer – for any injuries. If the infants are clinging to the mother and there are no apparent injuries, proceed with step 3. If injuries are detected, proceed to step 5.
 
Step 3. Slowly move the bat into a nearby tree. A sudden move may cause a mother bat to fly off and abandon her young. From a ladder, gently secure the branch in a spot where foliage will conceal the bats. The spot should be at least six feet from the ground, with a clearing below to enable the bats to take flight. Do not put the bats on the trunk of a tree where they will be vulnerable to predators. Proceed to step 4.
 
Step 4. Monitor the area. Check the bat the following morning. If it hasn’t moved overnight it may be injured or sick. If the mother bat is gone but her babies remain, they may have been abandoned. Proceed to step 5.
 
Step 5. Call a local wildlife rehabilitator for help. In the Boise area, call Animals in Distress Association at 208-367-1026. To find a local wildlife rehabilitator or bat worker, please see http://www.batworld.org and click on Local Rescue. Or call Bat World Sanctuary at 940-325-3404 to find a Bat World rescue center or a bat rehabilitator.

Make a bat house | You can make your own bat house to provide a cozy place for bats to live. 

Check out Idaho's bats |  Click on the bat names to the right to learn more about these interesting mammals.

You can also visit Bat Conservation International's website to find out more about bats. 


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Bats 

Western pipistrelle 
Western small-footed myotis 
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Fringed myotis 
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Sensitive Species (not a complete list) 

Greater sage-grouse 
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