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Little Brown Bat

Little brown bats are one of the most common bats in Oregon and the United States. Their scientific name is Myotis lucifugus. The group of bats in the genus Myotis are called the “mouse-eared” bats.

Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat

This species has glossy golden to olive brown fur, and is 80-102 mm from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. Its wingspread is 20-25 cm . Adults weigh 7-10 g ; females are slightly heavier than males.

Because of their small size and nocturnal habits, bats are nearly impossible to identify in flight. However, when roosting, or in hand (only experts should handle bats because these small animals are fragile, and a very small percent may be rabid) most Adirondack species vary enough in color and size to permit easy recognition.The little brown bat flies at speeds of approximately 6-34 km (4-21 mph), the wings moving at a rate of 15 strokes per second at intermediate speeds.

The little brown bat is an exception because it resembles both Keen’s myotis and the Indiana bat . The little brown bat has long hairs on each hind foot which extend to, or just beyond the claws on the toes. These hairs are shorter on the grayish brown Indiana bat. Relatively short ears that, when pressed forward, extend less than 2 mm beyond the nose, distinguish the little brown bat from the longer eared Keen’s myotis.

The little brown bat eats insects like gnats, flies, moths, wasps and beetles. The little brown bat hunts at dusk and at night. It uses echolocation to locate prey. It sends out a high-frequency sound. When the sound hits an object, it bounces back to the bat. The bat then can identify what the sound hit and where it is. When it finds its prey, it grabs it with its wings and tucks it into a pouch formed when it brings its wing and tail membranes together. It then grabs the insect with its sharp teeth and eats it!

Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat

Life Cycle : Adults mate in mid to late autumn while swarming near the entrances of hibernation sites. Males arousing during hibernation may also mate with torpid females. Females store sperm from autumn and winter matings. Fertilization occurs in the spring as females leave hibernation to form nursery colonies. The gestation period is variable, usually 50-60 days, and depends on a female’s ambient temperature.

Females bear their single young in late June or July. During parturition, the female hangs head up, expelling the newborn into the cupped tail membrane. At birth, each young weighs 1.5-2 g (0.07 oz), its flesh colored skin covered with fine silky hair, the eyes opening within 24 hours. For the first few days, young little brown bats cling to their mother’s fur, even during nocturnal foraging flights, but at a later age, remain at the roost.

Females disperse from nursery colonies when the young are weaned and capable of flight, at approximately 21-28 days. Yearling females may bear young, but males do not breed until the end of their second summer. Potential longevity of the little brown bat is 34 years, although few individuals live this long.

Little Brown Bats

Little Brown Bats

There is a relatively high level of interest in bats, and the Division has funded several bat management and education projects through its Wildlife Diversity Grant Program. Information is available from the Division of Wildlife on the design and placement of bat houses, and little brown bats are one of the species most likely to utilize a bat house. The Division also works closely with the Ohio Department of Health, sharing information in regard to public health, especially concerning rabies.

Management : Although bats are currently the most frequent rabies-positive animals examined by the Ohio Department of Health each year, this only translates to 6 to 25 positive animals per year, out of hundreds that are tested, and no Ohioan has contracted rabies from a bat. Rabies is something to be cautious about; however, most bats are healthy and are an important and positive part of the state’s biodiversity.

Little brown bats, and all bats in general, have been saddled with many inaccurate descriptions, including their role in the transmission of rabies. Rabies cycles through wildlife populations, its prevalence varying over time. In the 1960s and ’70s, very few rabid bats were recorded in Ohio; skunks and foxes had the highest incidence during these decades. In the near future, it is likely that the most common rabies- positive animal in Ohio will be the raccoon.

Little Brown Bats

Little Brown Bats

The little brown bat is promiscuous and colonial. During the summer, females gather in maternal or nursery colonies of a dozen to more than a thousand, while males roost alone or in small isolated colonies. In autumn, both sexes swarm near the entrances to hibernating sites, then disperse, returning later to hibernate in dense aggregations sometimes numbering in the thousands. Several hundred miles may separate summer roosts from winter hibernation sites.

The colonial habits of this species are responses to roosting sites safe from predators, the patchy distribution of its food, and the conservation of body heat by roosting in close proximity. An estimate of the population density of the little brown bat in the northeastern U.S. is 1 bat per 10 ha (1 per 25 acres).

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