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 colonies in caves. A few solitary species, such as the red bat, roost in trees.

In winter, bats either hibernate or migrate to warmer areas. Those that hibernate build up a fat reserve to sustain them through the winter. If they’re disturbed, their fat reserve could become exhausted and they could die prior to spring.

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

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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...

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...

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: March 6, 2019

New Species Habitat Distribution Maps Now Support Conservation Planning at a National Scale

A new dataset of habitat distribution for terrestrial vertebrate species in the conterminous United States is now available from the USGS.

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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Clustered southeastern bats
December 31, 2017

Clustered southeastern bats

This photo shows clustered southeastern bats, or Myotis austroriparius. As of June 2017, the species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome.

Hibernating little brown bat
December 31, 2017

Hibernating little brown bat

little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) with white-nose syndrome hibernating in a Virginia cave during late spring of 2016. Patches of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome can be seen growing out of the skin (white areas) near the nose and across the folded wing skin of this bat.  Spherical drops of water condensation coat the bat's outer fur, a

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Scientists collecting bat location data
December 20, 2016

Scientists collecting bat location data

Recorded Bat Calls: Recorded 'echolocation' calls are later evaluated by computer programs and visual inspection to ascribe bat species identities.

 An Arizona bat or Occult bat (Myotis occultus) roost from southern Colorado
December 15, 2016

An Arizona bat or Occult bat (Myotis occultus) roost from southern CO

An Arizona bat or Occult bat (Myotis occultus) roost from southern Colorado.

A map of bat diversity in the U.S.
November 29, 2016

A map of bat diversity in the U.S.

A map of bat diversity in the U.S. Map by Paul Cryan, USGS.

A map showing the areas that hibernating species of bats live in in the U.S.
November 29, 2016

Hibernating bat map of the U.S.

A map showing the areas that hibernating species of bats live in in the U.S. Map by Paul Cryan, USGS.

A map showing the areas that non-hibernating species of bats live in in the U.S.
November 29, 2016

Non-hibernating species of bats map of the U.S.

A map showing the areas that non-hibernating species of bats live in in the U.S.

Bats emerging from the trees in the early evening sky.
December 31, 2014

Bat emergence, Paul Cryan, USGS photo.

Bats emerging from the trees in the early evening sky.

December 31, 2014

Bat Thermal Video

Imagery from temperature-sensing cameras showing bats in hibernation. This new footage suggests that bats who warm up from hibernation together throughout the winter may be better at surviving white nose syndrome, a disease caused by a cold-loving fungus ravaging insect-eating bat populations in the United States and Canada. Locations: Gap Cave,125 Cumberland Gap National

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Lava tube opening/possible bat roost with pine forest above.
December 31, 2011

Lava tube opening/possible bat roost with pine forest above.

Opening of a large lava tube at El Malpais National Monument in western New Mexico and likely roost for bats, 2011.

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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Image: Brown Bat
June 20, 2008

Brown Bat

Little brown bat with fungus on muzzle.

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