Are bats dangerous? 

All healthy bats try to avoid humans by taking flight and are not purposely aggressive. Most bats are about the size of a mouse and use their small teeth and weak jaws to grind up insects. You should avoid handling bats because several species, such as the hoary and big brown bats, have large teeth that can puncture skin if they are handled improperly.

Less than one percent of the bat population contracts rabies, which is a much lower rate of incidence than other mammals. Still, you should not handle or disturb bats, especially those that are active and appear sick during daylight hours. All bat bites should be washed immediately with soap and water, and a physician should be consulted.

Learn more about bats at the USGS North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) website.

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Where do bats live?

Bats can be found in almost all parts of the world and in most regions of the United States. In general, bats seek out a variety of daytime retreats such as caves, rock crevices, old buildings, bridges, mines, and trees. Different species require different roost sites. Some species, such as the Mexican free-tailed and gray bats live in large...

Why are bats important?

By eating insects, bats save U.S. agriculture billions of dollars per year in pest control. Some studies have estimated that service to be worth over $3.7 billion per year, and possibly as much as $53 billion. This value does not, however, take into account the volume of insects eaten by bats in forest ecosystems and the degree to which that...

What do bats eat?

Bats are the most significant predators of night-flying insects. There are at least 40 different kinds of bats in the U.S. that eat nothing but insects. A single little brown bat, which has a body no bigger than an adult human’s thumb, can eat 4 to 8 grams (the weight of about a grape or two) of insects each night. Although this may not sound like...

Do vampire bats really exist?

Yes, but not in most of the United States. Of the three species of vampire bats in North America, only a single specimen has been recorded for the United States in extreme southwest Texas. Vampire bats do not suck blood--they make a small incision with their sharp front teeth and lap up the blood with their tongue. Vampire bats in Mexico and South...

Are bats blind? 

No, bats are not blind. Bats have small eyes with very sensitive vision, which helps them see in conditions we might consider pitch black. They don’t have the sharp and colorful vision humans have, but they don’t need that. Think of bat vision as similar to a dark-adapted Mr. Magoo (a cartoon character with very poor vision). Learn more at the...

How are bats affected by wind turbines?

Dead bats are found beneath wind turbines all over the world. It’s estimated that tens to hundreds of thousands die at wind turbines each year in North America alone. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear why this is happening. It’s possible that wind turbines interfere with seasonal migration and mating patterns in some species of bats. More than...

What should I do if I find dead or dying bats, or if I observe bats with signs of White-nose Syndrome?

If you find a dead or dying bat: Contact your state wildlife agency, file an electronic report in those states that offer this service, e-mail U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists in your area, or contact your nearest Fish and Wildlife Service field office to report your potential White-nose Syndrome (WNS) observations. It is important to...
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Date published: October 23, 2017

Trick or Treat? The Frightening Threats to Bats

Written by Marisa Lubeck and Ethan Alpern

Date published: August 1, 2017

Deadly Fungus Affecting Hibernating Bats Could Spread During Summer

The cold-loving fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd) that causes white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed millions of North American bats during hibernation, could also spread in summer months. Bats and humans visiting contaminated caves and mines can inadvertently contribute to the spread of the fungus, according to a recently published study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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USGS
December 31, 2017

Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) Call

Bats produce a variety of vocalizations that are used for navigation, feeding, and social communication. Most vocalizations are pitched well above the range of human hearing and are referred to as ultrasonic. These calls are often known as echolocation calls since bats use the echoes produced when a sound bounces off a bug or a building to determine what is in the area. 

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Allen's big-eared bat (Idionycteris phyllotis), an insectivore known from the southwestern United States
December 15, 2016

Allen's big-eared bat (Idionycteris phyllotis), an insectivore.

 Allen's big-eared bat (Idionycteris phyllotis), an insectivore known from the southwestern United States.

Spotted Bat
October 26, 2016

Spotted Bat

A spotted bat.

Cryan taking a female hoary bat out of a net. This bat was intercepted during its spring migration through New Mexico.
May 11, 2016

BatNetting.jpg

USGS Research Biologist Paul Cryan taking a female hoary bat out of a net. This bat was intercepted during its spring migration through New Mexico. Photo by Leslie Cryan.

USGS
September 20, 2012

Terminal Phase Feeding Call of the Hawaiian Hoary Bat

When bats detect an insect from returned echolocation calls they rapidly increase the pulse rate and raise the frequency of calls in order to gather more information on the insect including location. These calls emitted right before a bat closes in on an insect are called terminal phase calls or "feeding buzzes". The frequency is well above human hearing capabilities at 65

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USGS
March 30, 2011

Beyond Billions: Threatened Bats are Worth Billions to Agriculture

Insect-eating bats provide pest-control services that save the U.S. agriculture industry over $3 billion per year, according to a study released today in the journal Science. However, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Pretoria in South Africa, University of Tennessee, and Boston University who contributed to the study warn that these valuable

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USGS
May 1, 2008

I have bats in my attic, what should I do?

Listen to hear the answer.

A VaTech student is holding a Hoary bat captured in a mist net during the summer of 2017 at Prince William Forest Park in VA.

A Virginia Tech student holding a Hoary bat captured in a mist net.

Hoary bats get their name from their long, dense fur with white tips that give them a frosted or “hoary” appearance.  Hoary bats are a rare treat in researcher’s mist-nets due to their propensity for high altitude flight. In this picture a VaTech student is holding a Hoary batcaptured in a mist net during the summer of 2017 at Prince William Forest Park in eastern VA as a

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Attribution: Ecosystems
Image: Endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat

Endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat

An endangered Hawaiian hoary bat, a species that is sometimes killed by wind turbines. USGS scientists from Hawaii and Colorado are devising a way to directly observe bat occurrence and behavior at wind turbines using a video system composed of high-powered illuminators and near-infrared cameras.  This new approach images the full rotor-swept areas of wind turbines for

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