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Batty Bats

By Belinda Pianezza

Most furry creatures in Canada have some fans. There are always people who will “ooo” or “ahh” for them, even if they are not the cutest of creatures. Then there are bats. The winged creatures seem to defy all understanding about animals. They look like they could be a rodent, but they have wings. Admit it, it is kind of creepy. Maybe that is why they have been associated with Halloween for years.

There is truthfully nothing really scary about a bat. Yes, they are mammals with wings, but they are so much more.

Bats are not rodents. It’s a common thought that bats come from the rodent family because they resemble other rodent-like creatures. The truth is, bats are actually closely related to primates and humans. That would explain Dracula. Despite Dracula’s penchant for drinking blood, Canadian bats do not. In fact, there are only three species in the world that are known to drink animal blood. The closest Canadian bats get to blood is through the mosquitoes they eat. One brown bat can actually eat about 600 mosquitoes in one hour.

There are more than 1000 species of bats in the world and 18 of them live in Canada. Canadian bats are known as microbats. The most common bat in Ontario is the Little Brown Bat. It is about 6 to 10 centimetres long and can live up to 35 years. There is a big difference between the Canadian microbats and their larger cousins. The largest bat in the world is known as a flying fox or a fruit bat. It can measure about 16 inches long with a wingspan that can reach five feet. These large flying mammals are found in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

Big or small, all bats have at least one thing in common, they are nocturnal. During the hot summer days, they find cool places to hide. In the winter, they join other animals and hibernate. Canadian bats prefer mines and caves for their winter retreats. Bats are able to go all winter without eating or drinking. Their body temperature and metabolic rates decrease and they enter a coma-like state until spring.

There is a saying that if one is unable to see, he/she is blind as a bat. In actual fact, bats are not blind. They can see and rely on sight when hunting and flying. However, they do have a backup system. Some bats are able to track where they are going through ultrasonic pulses of sound.

Bats prefer to live closer to bodies of water. They can wedge themselves into the smallest places to hide. This can include sheds and attics. If you live near a body of water and are interested in opening a hotel for bats, you can build a bat house. Be sure to hang it high enough off the ground so that predators cannot reach.