Myth Busters

Big Brown Bat
Big brown bat

NPS photo

Bats are often misunderstood. People sometimes think of them as blind, bloodthirsty flying mice. Do you know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to bats?

Bats are just mice with wings.
FALSE. Although bats are small like rodents, they're more closely related to primates and humans than they are to mice or rats. Bats are extremely long-lived for their size. Some bats can live up to 35 years, compared to rats that live 1-2 years. Furthermore, female bats usually only give birth to one "pup" a year whereas rats give birth to many offspring, multiple times a year.

Bats drink blood.
TRUE. There are species of bats called vampire bats that rely on the blood of other animals to survive. Vampire bats live in Latin America and primarily feed on cattle or other large animals, which often don't even notice the bat when it comes for dinner. Occasionally, a vampire bat will bite a human and can potentially transmit rabies, making this an important public health issue in these parts of the world.

All bats are rabid.
FALSE. Less than 1% of bats have rabies, but bats that act strangely or contact humans are 10 times more likely to be sick with rabies. Any potential contact with bat saliva, such as a bite or scratch or even waking up in a room with a bat, should be reported to a physician or public health professional to determine the need for further medical evaluation. Rabies is nearly always fatal in humans, but it is 100% preventable with proper medical care following an exposure.

Bats are blind.
FALSE. Bats can see just fine and actually have pretty good eyesight. In fact, some of the larger, fruit-eating bats can see 3 times better than humans. Some bats also use echolocation as a way to "see" obstacles and catch prey in low light conditions, like dawn and dusk. Bats may fly close to new objects in their surroundings because they're curious, but they certainly won't intentionally fly into your hair!

Last updated: October 7, 2016

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