Bats of Texas
Bats are the only flying mammals. Their front limbs have evolved over the years, they have elongated fingers and a wing membrane stretched between them. The bat is the second largest order of mammals with over 1200 species.
Bats mate in winter and delay fertilization till spring for the fetus to start developing. There are species such as Mexican free-tailed bat that mate and give birth in early summer or spring. The gestation period for bats is 40 day. They give birth to live young ones and breastfeed them like other mammals. Most species of bats produce only one pup in a year while others produce two or four and are taken care of in maternal colonies. Maternal colonies a group females bats who come together to bear and raise the young pups together. The pups grow fast and are ready to feed by themselves and fly by late summer.
Most bats about feed on insects. There are also fruit-eating bats, nectar-feeding bats, fish-eating bats, carnivorous bats that prey on lizards, frogs, birds, and small mammals. The most famous and scary group of bat are the blood-sucking vampire bats of South America.
Bats live almost everywhere, including under tree barks, in caves, crevices along bridges, palm fronds, hollow trees. They are creatures of habit and will return to the same roost for long periods of time, sometimes even for a whole lifetime. Bats roost areas such as on roof ceiling, abandoned houses.
5 Benefits of Bats
- Bats that feed on insects are beneficial to man. A colony of bats can devour tons of insects thus making bats natural pest control. Most insects damage crops, cause diseases to livestock and man and are a huge nuisance.
- Nectar-feeding bats are important as they help plants in cross-pollination, especially in rainforests.
- Fruit feeding bats are important because they help plants to disperse the fruit’s seeds. Over 300 fruit species depend on bats for seed dispersal.
- They are food for owls, raccoons, opossums, falcons, hawks among other carnivores and thus supplement the energy cycle.
- Bats fecal matter known as guano, is used as fertilizer
Bats of Texas
There are 33 species of bats documented in the state of Texas. The species found belong to four families of bats.
- Family mormoopidae example Ghost-faced bat – Mormoops megalophylla
- Family Phyllostomidae example Hairy-legged Vampire – Diphylla ecaudata
- Family Vespertilionidae example Western Small-footed Myotis – Myotis ciliolabrum
- Family Molossidae example Big Free-tailed Bat- Nyctinomops macrotis
Bats are usually carriers of the rabies virus. The following are the symptoms for rabies in bats: Flying in the daytime, spastic paralysis, breathing difficulties, dehydration, cloudy eyes, the presence of dirt in the bat’s mouth, mucus on the nostrils, isolation from the colony, abnormal sounds made by the bat among others. Bats transmit this illness to humans when they bite.
In eastern North America, White-nose syndrome has caused unmatched deaths of hibernating bats. There has been a great challenge in managing and researching the syndrome as it continues to spread. This has evoked the state and federal wildlife agencies to conduct a combined coordinated effort to try to manage the white-nose syndrome and to conserve the bats.
Responding to a bat bite
When a bat bites you, it’s important to immediately seek medical attention. The bat should also be captured and evaluated for rabies to determine the course of action and medication. You should thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water. Then contact a designated respondent who should advocate for a rabies vaccination especially if the bat has symptoms of rabies. Capture the bat while following district procedure and keep it in captivity till animal control responded. Determine whether any other individual came into contact with the bat and get close contact to facilitate medication and vaccination in case the bat is found to have rabies. The information should be confidential. Report the incident to IPM coordinator to notify animal control. The local and regional health department should be consulted about incidents of potential rabies.
Bat Contact & Finding Bats
Don’t try to capture the bat. Bats are good in flight and require experienced training. You may also injure the bat or break its wings. Notify a professional and evacuate the area. Secure the doors so that the bat doesn’t escape if the bat is in an enclosure. If the bat is outside in the open, keep people away so as not to scare the bat to fly away. Identify the people who came into contact with the bat for further diagnosis.