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Understanding Bats Illustration

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.