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Big Brown Bat

Bats are mammals, and members of the order Chiroptera. They are the second largest order of mammals in number of species. There are about 1000 species of bats, 14 of which live in Northern united states. Of these, 9 are commonly found in caves.

Big Brown Bat

Big Brown Bat

Big Brown Bats are one of the most common bats in Northern Virginia, as well as the largest. Their bodies are about five inches long, not counting the tail, and they have a wingspan of up to 13 inches.Big Brown Bats have brown fur above, and paler fur below. Their wings are black and have no fur. They only weigh about half of an ounce.Big Brown Bats can be found all over. They live in forests, cities, parks, and farms.

Big Brown Bats roost in hollow trees, buildings, caves, storm sewers, and under bridges. In Winter, they hibernate, often in buildings and usually alone.Big Brown Bats breed from November to March. After breeding season, they form maternity colonies (mothers and babies) of up to 600 bats. Female bats give birth to one or two young (usually twins). Young bats can fly in three to four weeks.Mothers communicate to their babies with high-pitched squeaks. Males do not participate in raising young.Big Brown Bats often live over 10 years.

Habits: This species is normally a forest dweller, but it does not hesitate to utilize attics and crevices in buildings, caves, and crevices in rocks for daytime retreats. Favorite roosts are under the loose bark of dead trees and in cavities of trees. These bats emerge rather early in the evening and feed among the trees, often following a regular route from one treetop to another and back again. In contrast to red bats (Lasiurus borealis), big brown bats prefer to forage among the crowns of the trees rather than under the forest canopy. Their flight is relatively slow and direct.

Life Cycle: Depending on species, bats have many different lifestyles. Some bats are solitary and hang in tree foliage, attics, barns, and other protected places during the day. Other bats are colonial and cluster in caves and mine tunnels. When they are at rest, bats hang with their heads down. Male and female bats tend to remain separate in summer. Mating occurs in early fall. However, in a process known as delayed fertilization, sperm is stored in the females’ reproductive system until the following spring when ovulation occurs and embryonic development begins. The young bats, known as pups, are born in spring. The newborn bats are blind and furless and are nursed by their mother until they are 6 weeks old. Young bats begin to fly by the time they are a month old.

Big Brown Bat

Big Brown Bat

Bats have one of the slowest reproductive rates for animals their size. Most bats in northeastern North America have only one or two pups a year, and many females do not breed until their second year. This low reproductive rate is somewhat offset by a long life-span, often over 20 years. .During the winter, some bats migrate south in search of food, while others hibernate through the cold weather when insects are scarce. Bats that do migrate usually travel less than 200 miles, often following the same routes as migratory birds. Bats prepare for hibernation by putting on fat to last through the cold weather.

Bats may also move from nursery caves suited for rapid growth of their young to cooler caves with stable winter temperatures. When a bat hibernates, its body temperature drops almost to air temperature, and respiration and heartbeat become very slow. Throughout the winter, bats eat nothing,surviving by slowly burning fat accumulated during the summer. Bats can be roused from hibernation fairly easily and may fly around for 15 minutes after being disturbed, thereby using up fat reserves needed to survive long winters. Disturbances that cause bats to awaken and use fat stores can be fatal to the bat. Hibernating bats should be left alone.

Damage: Bats do not gnaw or chew on wood, metal, or plastic to gain entry or exit to and from buildings. Nor do they build nests as do birds. Their roosting places in buildings are often recognized by the presence of a whitish or darkened stain on rafters and the accumulation of guano (feces and urine) beneath the roost site. Because bats also defecate and urinate while in flight, fecal droppings and drops of urine may be become splattered on the outer and inner walls of a building near where the bats gain entry or exit. Fecal droppings and urine may also become splattered on items stored in an area where the bats roost. This problem can be remedied by covering the items with sheets of plastic for protection. A musty odor is often associated with the accumulation of guano produced by bats.

If guano is removed at the end of each summer season (in autumn), the effect of the odor will be lessened. Guano may be safely added to a compost pile or used directly as fertilizer on the lawn or garden.While roosting in buildings bats may emit audible clicking or squeaking sounds which may be annoying to some people and especially to dogs (which can hear high frequency sounds). Sometimes bats may be heard clamoring in the spaces between chimneys and walls and between walls, especially at night before departing to feed, and upon their return from feeding.

Big Brown Bat

Big Brown Bats

Control: Bats that seek shelter in houses often gain entry to a building through small crevices and cracks, where a chimney has pulled away from an outer wall, where the facial board has become loosened, from beneath shingles and roofing, through unscreened air vents and open windows, and occasionally through open doorways. The occasional single bat discovered in the room of a building during the warm months is more than likely to be a young individual that has lost its way. Sometimes bats may arouse from hibernation during an unseasonably warm period in winter; they may become disoriented and eventually find their way into the interior of a house.The most effective and environmentally sound method of preventing bats from roosting in houses is to close off the openings that are used for entry and exit.

This can be accomplished by determining where they depart at dusk and then sealing the openings with metal, wood, or plastic foam insulation. This procedure should not be attempted during the maternity period in June and July, otherwise young bats will be trapped in the building. In late summer and autumn openings that were identified during summer at the peak of bat activity can be sealed after bats have left for the night. Because big brown bats often hibernate in buildings, it is not advisable to seal the openings during the winter. The use of toxic chemicals as repellents is not recommended, because these can have adverse effects on the homeowner, and they are less effective than physical exclusion.

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