Halloween is just around the corner and chances are you’ve seen plenty of giant bats hanging around – everywhere from windows and doors to classrooms and restaurants to maybe even your own living room.
But if you wanted to see a real, live bat, you’re going to have to do more than walk down the holiday decoration aisle of your favorite department store.
Tennessee is home to more than a dozen species of bats, including the Gray Bat, the Silver-Haired Bat, the Seminole Bat, the Hoary Bat, the Eastern Red Bat and the Indiana Bat. The most common bat found in our region is the Big Brown Bat.
As its name suggests, the Big Brown Bat is one of the larger bat species, weighing in at roughly half a pound or about the size of your fist, with a wingspan of approximately 12 inches.
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Big Brown Bats don’t build nests, but will find a sheltered area to roost in during the daytime. Bats can be found hibernating in hollow trees, rocky crevices, buildings, caves, mines and road culverts. Females establish nursery colonies during the summer in hollow trees, attics, chimneys, lofts or caves, while the males roost in trees or man-made structures.
“They tend to live around waterways, such as lakes and rivers, and eat the insects that hatch out of the water,” said Bays Mountain Park Ranger Bob Culler. “You can also find them in urban areas near streets lights that draw in a lot of the insects they like to eat.”
Big Brown Bats are nocturnal animals and are most active between dusk and dawn. Contrary to popular belief, bats won’t get tangled in your hair, they won’t fly off with your pet and they are not “blind,” Culler said. They can see, but they do use sonar to find their way around after dark.
“They emit ultrasonic frequency sounds, that we can’t hear, to navigate through the trees and to help find insect prey,” Culler explains.
Big Brown Bats have a diet of beetles, houseflies, flying ants, wasps, leafhoppers and moths. Just like snakes, Big Brown Bats get a bad rap from people, but in fact these small flying mammals serve the role of pest control and are typically not a nuisance.
If bats make their way into a building, your home or an attic, first you need to figure out how they got in and plug the hole. Bats can gain entry through the tiniest of spaces and if the holes aren’t plugged, the bats are going to keep coming back, Culler said.
“If they’re in a barn or outdoors, I’d just leave them alone. If you want to get rid of them from an attic or some other place, the best thing to do is set up a fan blowing across them,” Culler said. “They generally look for places that are at a constant temperature that’s protected from the wind.
“If you set up a fan, that ruins it, and they almost will certainly leave quickly.”
For more information about bats in Tennessee, visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website at https://bit.ly/3MhMHc3.
Kingsport’s Communications Department is conducting a multi-part series this year on “Living with Nature,” which will highlight outdoor safety and tips on how to protect you and your family from some of the animals found in our region (bears, deer, skunks, raccoons and snakes).
The “Living with Nature” press releases can be found here and on the Kingsport Alerts Facebook page.