When people think about Arkansas they typically think of the beautiful landscapes. Some may even think of the abundant wildlife. However, there is one group of animals that tends to be forgotten among the deer and razorback hogs, and insects.
These are creatures that remain “in the shadows” so to speak. Bats!
Yes, there are many bats in Arkansas. In fact, 16 of the 47 species of bats in the US are found in Arkansas.
Facts about the Bats in Arkansas
Here are some of the interesting facts as well as a few mis-understandings about the bats in Arkansas and bats in general.
Bats in Arkansas don’t all live in caves!
Although there are plenty of caves and bluff shelters in Arkansas, only two of the species of bats in the state actually live their entire lives in those caves. This means that only 2 species roost, give birth, and hibernate in caves.
Most of the bats in Arkansas rely on a variety of habitats, which might include caves, but also trees, old structures, and other shelters to roost and reproduce.
Some even live in the swampy lowlands of the state nowhere near a cave.
You might be interested in learning more about the Arkansas Caves as well as War Eagle Cavern. We saw a few bats here when we visited. Then there is Rock House Cave which does not have bats, but does have ancient pictographs.
Many bats in Arkansas (and the world) are endangered
Arkansas is home to an impressive diversity of bats and these creatures are an integral part of the state’s biology. Unfortunately their numbers are decreasing. This is due to habitat loss but also to disease.
One disease in particular, white nose syndrome, has killed thousands and thousands of bats in the state.
What is White Nose Syndrome?
White nose syndrome is considered to be one of the worst wildlife diseases in modern times. It has killed millions of bats in North America including many in Arkansas.
In some US locations 90 to 100 percent of bats have died.
Some of the Arkansas Caves, including Blanchard Springs Caverns, were even closed for a few years to try to stop the spread of this terrible disease.
Currently there is no cure for white nose syndrome although scientists are working hard to figure out a way to control it.
Why should we care if bats are endangered?
It might be easy to dismiss bats as unimportant, but it would also be wrong.
Actually bats are vitally important.
First of all they eat insects. Lots and lots of insects. It is said that one bat can eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour! That’s crazy.
One statistic says that bats contribute about $3.7 billion worth of insect control for farmers in the US each year.
We all know that Arkansas is a rural state with lots of farming. Bats are unsung heroes to the farmers as they help to protect crops from insect damage. One of the most important things that bats do for us is provide natural pest control.
Not only that but other living things in caves depend on bats because they rely on the nutrients from bat droppings.
Then there is tequila
Many plants rely on bats for pollination including agave.
Tequila is produced from these agave plants that rely on bats as their primary pollinators. So…no bats, no tequila.
Of course it’s not just agave that is important. Five hundred other plants relay on bats for pollination including banana and mango and cacao.
Besides insects, what do the bats in Arkansas eat?
All of the bats in Arkansas only eat insects. In fact, it is estimated that bats in Arkansas can consume 150 large insects or a thousand small ones per hour!
There are bats in other countries that eat nectar and fruit and a few that eat other animals like fish, frogs, and lizards.
Are there really vampire bats?
Yes…but not in Arkansas!
Of the 1,400 or more species of bats in the world, only three drink blood. None of these happen to live in Arkansas!
The three species that drink blood live in Central and South America. They don’t actually suck the blood of their prey though. They will make a small cut in the skin of a cow, or sheep, or horse and then lick the blood. Which is still pretty creepy.
Do bats in Arkansas have rabies?
Yes, some of them do. It is estimated that as many as 15% of the bats in Arkansas carry rabies. The good news is that bat bites are very rare.
However, Rabies can be transmitted by either a bite or a scratch from an infected animal so you should never touch or disturb a bat especially if you see one lying on the ground. A bat on the ground is more likely to be sick and more likely to bite.
The only mammal that can truly fly
Bats are the only mammal that can truly fly. You might think of the flying squirrel, but in reality, they can only glide for short distances.
Bats are true flyers.
Species of bats in Arkansas
World wide there are more than 1300 species of bats. This means that more than 20 percent of mammal species are bats.
There are about 47 species of bats in the US and 16 species of bats in Arkansas.
Here is a list of some of the species of bats that live at least part of the year in the natural state! Some bats live in the state year round while others migrate to and from the state.
- Eastern Red Bat: This is probably the most common species of bat in the state. They are known for their striking red or chestnut color. They are usually the first to appear in the evenings. They are commonly found in forests and woodlands.
- Gray Bat: The Gray Bat is a federally endangered species and uses certain caves in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas to give birth to their pups.
- Brazilian Free-tailed Bat: These bats are migratory and travel to Arkansas during the summer to give birth and raise their young. They are known for their distinctive “free-tailed” appearance. They live in colonies in the southern and eastern parts of the state.
- Townsends Big Ear Bat and Rafinesque Big Ear Bat: These are two similar species of bat. The Townsend’s Big Ear Bat is only found in Northwest Arkansas while the Rafinesque Big Ear Bat is found in southern and eastern Arkansas. And yes, they have big ears!
- Little Brown Bat: The little brown bat has been one of the most common bats in the US and are found through most of North America. However, populations of Little Brown Bats have been severely affected by white-nose syndrome. They are typically found in forested habitats.
- The Southeastern Bat: The Southeastern Bat rests by day and forages at night. They often hunt and feed over water. One thing that is unique about the Southeastern bats is that they mostly give birth to twins while other bats typically only have one baby.
- Eastern Pipistrelle: The Eastern Pipistrelle is also known as the Tri-colored Bat. They are around three inches long with about a seven inch wingspan. They are easily distinguished from other similar species by their tri-colored fur. These small bats can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests and open areas.
- Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis): Another endangered species, Indiana Bats, are found in forested areas and caves. They are highly sensitive to disturbances during their hibernation periods.
This information comes from several sources one of which is: Central Termite and Pest
Bats in Arkansas normally have their offspring in spring and early summer when the weather is warmer. Most bats have only a singleton birth although there are some bat species that regularly give birth to twins.
What is the name for a baby bat?
Baby bats are called pups.
Many bat species form temporary maternity colonies.
These are groups of female bats who are pregnant, nursing, caring for, and weaning their young pups.
Once the pups are weaned and can fly and feed they will go off on their own and these colonies break up. They stay with their mothers up to 9 months.
Do bats give birth hanging upside down?
Actually, yes! Most of the time they do. The mother will then clasp the baby with her wings and hold it to her body. Bats are the only mammals that give birth upside down.
What do baby bats eat?
Bats are mammals so the baby bats nurse for anywhere from 5 weeks in the smaller species of bats to 5 months in the larger species.
After that they learn to eat the same food that their species eat such as insects or fruit.
Source for much of this information: Emergence of Baby Bats.
How long do bats live?
It is highly variable from species to species but some bats can live up to 20 years.
According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham:
Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii) is the longest-lived bat species documented so far. It weighs 7 grams — a bit less than three pennies — based on mark-recapture studies it has a lifespan of at least 41 years in the wild, which is roughly 10 times as long as expected for a typical mammal of its size.University of Alabama at Birmingham
Do Bats Hibernate?
Yes, many bats do hibernate in the winter while others will migrate to warmer climates. Bats typically hibernate in colonies or large groups.
When bats move to their hibernation quarters such as a cave, their body temperature lowers and they begin their long winter’s sleep using stored fats as their food sources.
As a true hibernator, the bat’s heart rate and breathing rate also drop to just a few times per minute. In this state, a bat can conserve its store of energy and survive a long winter without feeding.
A little brown bat, for example, at the optimum temperature of 36 degrees F., expends only 20 calories a day.
Blind as a bat
Bats are not actually blind! They can see. However, like us, they don’t see as well in the dark. So they use echolocation to navigate since they are nocturnal animals who typically live in and feed in dark environments.
Echolocation is the ability to navigate by the means of sound waves reflected back to the emitter.
So, if bats are out there making sounds to navigate why can’t we hear them? Because, most bats produce sound waves at frequencies above human hearing.
Dolphins and some whales also use echolocation.
Where is the largest bat colony in the world?
Bracken Cave is the world’s largest bat colony. This is a summer maternity colony Located near San Antonio, Texas. It is home to up to 20 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats.
Another Source for this post: Facts about bats.
I hope that it has been fun to read all about the bats in Arkansas and around the world!
If you are interested in learning more about some of the wildlife in The Natural State then check out some of these other posts!
- Wild Hogs in Arkansas: The Razorback
- Mockingbird: State Bird of Arkansas
- Alligators in Arkansas
- Bears in Arkansas
- Insects in Arkansas
- Wait…There are swans in Arkansas?
Thanks so much for stopping by!