Bats belong to the order Chiroptera and are the only mammals that can truly fly. The ability to fly, along with their elusiveness and nocturnal habits have contributed to bat folklore, superstition, and fear. More than 1,300 species are distributed worldwide, second in number only to Rodentia (rodents) among mammals. Among the 47 species of bats found north of Mexico, only a few cause problems for humans (vampire bats are not found in the US or Canada). Bats that congregate in colonies are called colonial bats; those that do not are solitary bats.
Solitary bats typically roost in tree foliage or under bark but occasionally are found in buildings, usually as transients during migration. These include eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis), silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans), and hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus). Tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) also are solitary bats, but are year-round residents of New York and spend their winters in hibernation sites. Excellent illustrations of the bats of North America can be found at Bat Conservation International and the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web site (http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Chiroptera.html).
The lethal control of bats, even when there is a proven potential danger to humans, is often subjected to careful scrutiny and interagency coordination. Some states have laws that specifically mention bats, either providing or denying protection. Others have legislation that applies to bats only by interpretation because bats may be considered nongame wildlife or indigenous state mammals. The northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) and the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) are listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Other species may be listed as endangered or threatened on a state-by-state basis. Contact your state wildlife agency and become familiar with the appropriate federal and state laws before attempting any management activities. Habitat loss and the fungal disease white-nose syndrome are responsible for the majority of population decreases throughout North America.
Physical Description and Species Ranges
For photos and images of the 50 species of bats found in North America, visit the Bat Profiles at Bat Conservation International. Narrow the location to North America in the drop down menu for information and range maps on bat species.
Voices and Sounds
Most bats in North America emit high frequency sounds (ultrasound), inaudible to humans and similar to sonar, to avoid obstacles, locate and capture insect prey, and to communicate. Bats also emit audible sounds that may be used for communication between individuals.
Information on this species is based on the chapter in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (Hygnstrom, Larson, Timm, ed. 1994), written by Arthur M. Greenhall (American Museum of Natural History) and Stephen C. Frantz (New York State Department of Health).