For Release July 13, 1999
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent
I know a lot of people that would probably become just a little unsettled if they were aware of just how many bats we have in this area! There are a lot, a lot more than most local residents realize. And its a good thing that we have as many bats as we do or wed be over run with even more flying insects than it seems we already are.
Bats are one of those night time critters that everyone knows about but most folks dont know a lot about. Bats are mammals. They give birth to live young and nurse them on milk. The young grow very rapidly and, in some species, may be flying as soon as three weeks after birth, and will be weaned at five to six weeks after birth. There have been at least fifteen species of bats documented in Kansas with six species having been found in Geary County or adjacent counties.
Our local bat species are insect eaters. Bats in the mouse-eared family (which includes our most common bats in Kansas) can catch up to 600 mosquitoes per hour. If you want to put a dent in the mosquito population homeowners should be putting up bat houses, not Purple Martin houses! Bats will not try to attack you, unless you are handling them. They will not try to get tangled up in your hair (which is less of a concern for some of us than others). With their built in radar (echolocation) they are extremely skilled fliers. If the bat is flying directly at you it is either going after an insect OR you are between it and the most obvious way out of your house.
While bats, like any mammal, can carry rabies, recent studies have shown that bats actually rank third, behind raccoons and skunks in the incidence of wildlife rabies. To avoid a risk of rabies simply use common sense. Dont handle any bat that is found. Bats have sharp teeth and will use them in self defense like any wild animal. A bat that is overly active in the daylight, or is on the ground flopping around is a good candidate to be infected and sick, so leave these bats alone!
Bats often roost in the attics of houses or in nice tight crevices around homes. Our nesting bat species are quite small and can easily go through a fairly small opening (think of a mouse with wings as to how small of an opening it can go through. Many homeowners dont know they have bats until they hear them in the attic in the summer or see them leaving the house in the evening. The first instinct is usually panic and the second instinct is to immediately plug up the hole so they cant get back in. Both instincts are inappropriate!
Bats have a high metabolism and need a lot of food regularly or they die. If the bats you are seeing at the adults and they have young to feed you need to make sure they can get back in to the young bats or in a few days you will have dead and dying bats everywhere. Not a fun mess to clean up! Since bats are basically migratory you are better off to locate all entrances into the attic that they are using and then plug them up in the fall after they have left. Another option is to wait until late summer, after the young are on their own, and establish one way exits which will allow the bats to leave but not return. Once you know that they are all out, usually in just one or two nights, you can then plug the entrances.
Bats are a useful local resident that help keep us from being totally over run with flying insects. Although their presence can be startling, it doesnt need to be terrifying. We have a good bulletin on bats at the Extension Office, or you can visit the World Wide Web home page of Bat Conservation International at http://www.batcon.org/.
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