Bats are one of the most prolific forms of mammals with over 900 species living in the world and making up over 20% of all mammals. Bats are the only form of mammal to have attained powered flight. Several mammals like flying squirrels glide but cannot stay in the air for long like bats can. In the United States there are 45 species of bats and seven species in the U.S. are in danger of extinction. These endangered species are:
Lesser long-nosed bat - nectar-feeding and insect eating bat of the Southwestern U.S.
Hawaiian hoary bat - only indigenous bat in Hawaii. Eats insects.
Greater (Mexican) long-nosed bat - nectar-feeding and insect eating bat that lives in the Big Bend area of southwestern Texas.
Virginia big-eared bat - insect eating bat that lives in a few cave in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.
Ozark big-eared bat - only found in some caves in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas.
Indiana bat - insect eating bat that during the summer lives in hollow trees and in the winter stays in just nine caves in the U.S.
Gray bat - eats insects and lives in a few caves in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Why are bats good?
Most U.S. bats eat insects. A single bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in one hour. Some bats in the Southwestern U.S. also pollinate plants like the big saguaro cactus while drinking nectar.
How many bats have rabies?
Fewer than 0.5% of bats have rabies. Since 1960 there have only been 40 reported cases of humans getting rabies from bats.
Do bats suck blood?
Few bats drink blood. However there are some Vampire Bats that live in Central America, South America and Mexico that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals like horses, cattle and birds. The Vampire bat makes a small cut in a sleeping animal's skin and laps up the blood from the wound. Vampire bats need about 2 teaspoons of blood a day to live.
When can I see bats?
Bats like to come out to eat at night around dusk. Bats flight pattern is much more erratic than birds so look for this pattern.
Best National Park to view bat flights
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns has a bat viewing amphitheater where you can watch thousands of bats leave the cave at dusk. I have been to this viewing and it is quite a sight. The best viewing is in August and September. The bats leave for their winter migrations to Mexico in early November and return to Carlsbad Caverns around early May.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park has
a colony of around 400,000 Mexican freetail bats. It is indicated by research that Mexican freetail bats have roosted in Carlsbad Caverns for over 5,000 years. The population was estimated in 1936 to be over 8.6 million. It's decline is thought to have been caused by the pesticide DDT.
Rumor has it that Carlsbad Caverns were discovered by a cowboy named Jim White when he followed what he thought was a plume of smoke, which turned out to be millions of bats, coming out of the cave's entrance.