Wild Profile: Meet the little brown bat

Published: August 25, 2020

A little brown bat resting on a rock By Geoffrey Kuchera/Shutterstock

Canada’s little brown bat—along with, well, all bats—gets a bad rap. Not quite fair! And these bats need our help more than ever. Their numbers are dwindling thanks to white-nose syndrome, a disease that kills bats during hibernation as they overwinter in caves. Speaking of bat habitat, putting up bat houses helps provide more roosting places for them, and makes it less likely that they’ll take up residence in your cottage.

What cottagers need to know about rabies in bats

One little brown bat can eat half of its body weight in bugs. And a bunch of these bugs are mosquitoes—so hey, that’s a win for cottagers. If you’re going to see bats in flight, swooping for their dinner, it’ll be on warm, summer nights, after they’ve emerged, sometimes in surprisingly large numbers, from tiny, 1-cm-wide crevices in rock faces, trees, or, possibly your cottage eaves.

In case there was still any doubt in your mind, bats aren’t remotely blind; that said, they do see better in the dark than during daylight. Bats mainly use echolocation to find their insect meals. The ultrasonic blips, sometimes more than 200 per second, bounce off of objects to create a “map” of the flight zone for the bat. Once a bat has snagged its prey (using its wing and tail membranes), it chews each morsel seven times per second before swallowing. Don’t eat too fast, little buddies!

In September, when insect populations begin to drop, most cottage country bats have settled into their winter roosting places. They’ll hang upside down, clinging with their toenails—five on each foot. Their tendons lock to hold them stiffly in place.

Good news! Recent research suggests that scientists may have a made a discovery that will help save Canada’s bat population.

 

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