Bats


October 25, 1999


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Chiroptera or bats as they are more commonly known are found in almost all parts of the world. Idaho has approximately 12 species of bats!

Bats are not birds! They are mammals. In fact they are the only known flying mammals to exist. What is a mammal? Mammals are animals that have fur, give birth to live young and feed their babies milk. Most bats only have one pup (baby) a year.

All of the bats found in Idaho are insect eaters with one exception… Zoo Boise has a display of Ruwenzori long-haired bats that are nectar and fruit eaters but these bats are not native to Idaho they are just visitors. Speaking of eating insects, a single bat can eat over a hundred insects an hour! A small colony of bats eating thousands of insects an hour, think about what it would be like if we didn't have bats - we would be overrun with insects! Without insect-eating bats, farmers throughout the world would have to use more chemicals to save their crops from damage caused by insects.

Have you heard the saying Blind as a Bat? Well that is a myth; bats have excellent hearing and eyesight! Bats can find their way about at night and locate their food by echolocation. Echolocation is a method of sensing objects, communicating with others and finding food. Bats give out a series of short, high-pitched sounds and these "sounds" bounce off objects and create an echo. The echo returns to the bat, giving it an idea about what is ahead. Using echolocation, a bat can tell an object's size, shape, and how far away the object is. A bat's echolocation system is so accurate that they can detect insects the size of gnats!

Bats are nocturnal animals. That means they are out at night and sleep during the day. They generally roost during the day in caves. But as caves are closed off many bats are finding homes in mine shafts, underneath bridges and in barns. Many bats hibernate from September through April just like bears. It is important not to disturb hibernating bats because waking them up can cause bats to lose about two months of stored body fat and there isn't a food supply for bats in winter to replenish lost body fat.

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