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The bat is one of nature’s most fascinating and misunderstood creatures. They are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. The wing of a bat, which is totally different in structure from that of birds or insects, is formed from skin stretched over long, thin fingers that encompass the hind legs and often the tail.
Bats use echolocation to find and capture prey. They emit pulses of high-frequency sound (20-130 kHz) that bounce off nearby objects. The bats then use the echoes to determine the object’s distance, size and shape. Superbly adapted to flying at night, bats can navigate in total darkness, avoiding the thinnest of wire obstacles in their path with ease.
Michigan bats feed on a variety of moths, flies, beetles and other insects. When feeding under normal conditions they can capture 600 to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects per hour.
Bats are most often found in forested habitat near water, which are insect rich areas.
Hibernation is an adaptation for survival during the winter months, when there are no insects available for bats to eat. Though there are many places throughout Michigan where bats may hibernate (such as caves or mines), some Michigan bats will migrate to warmer areas in order to find a suitable place to hibernate.
In 2014, white-nose syndrome (WNS), a deadly disease affecting North American bats, was confirmed in Michigan. WNS primarily affects bats during hibernation. Infected bats prematurely awaken from hibernation, rapidly deplete their fat reserves, and are unable to survive the winter. Bats with WNS often exhibit unusual behavior such as flying during daylight hours or gathering outside of caves in cold weather.
Michigan bat species
Threats to bats
- Lake States Forest Management Bat Habitat Conservation Plan.
- Evening bat: threatened in Michigan – Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
- Indiana bat: endangered – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Northern long-eared bat: threatened – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Tricolored bat: special concern in Michigan – Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
- White-nose syndrome.
How you can help Michigan's bats
- Maintain bat habitat in and around your property.
- Follow mine closures and decontamination guidelines to reduce the spread of white-nose syndrome
- What can you do to help? – White-Nose Syndrome Response Team.
- Bat conservation – Indiana State University Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation.
- Tell others about the benefits of bats! – Bat Conservation International.
- Bat houses – Bat Conservation International.
- NOTE: Bat houses should not be located in areas that are frequented by people and domestic animals.
Bats and people
- About rabies.
- Rehabilitation of bats is illegal in Michigan. For your safety, if you find a bat outside that appears to be sick, injured or a baby, leave it alone and keep children and domestic animals away from it. The bat will likely leave on its own.
- Bats in buildings – Bat Conservation International.
- Decontamination information for cavers.
Other bat resources
- White-nose syndrome education resources.
- Lesson plans and videos – Indiana State University Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation.
- Bat Conservation International resources.
- Michigan bats and bat habitat from the DNR Landowner's Guide.
- Learn about bats – Organization for Bat Conservation.
- Bats are important – Bat Conservation International.