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Silver-haired bats are found throughout the United States (with Florida as a possible exception), northward into southern Canada up to the treeline, and reach their northern limits in Alaska . The range may also include extreme northeastern Mexico although there have been no confirmed sightings of the bat.
The silver-haired bat is a small bat that is recognized by the unique silvery highlights that are found in the hair on the bats back. Despite there being over 900 different species of bats within the microchiroptera group, the silver-haired bat has become the focus of much research in recent years as it has been found to carry a unique strain of rabies that has been determined to be the cause of numerous deaths over the last few decades.
The silver-haired bat is a medium-sized bat that when fully grown can range in length from two and Â¾ inches to four and Â¼ inches and the bat can range in weight from 4 grams to 12 grams . The silver-haired bat is one of the more common species of bats and has been found to live in suitable areas in Alaska, southern portions of Canada, the northern tip of Mexico and all but the southern most states in the United States . Unlike most other species of bats which tend to hibernate during the colder months when flying insects are unavailable, the silver-haired bat is one of the few species which migrates during the colder months.
During the spring and summer the silver-haired bat has been found to be distributed quite evenly throughout the region described above, however, during the late fall and winter months, the silver-haired bat is found to be much more abundant in the southern United States as well as the northern tip of Mexico only returning North once Spring returns Silver.
Silver-haired bats have been reported to be one of the earliest fliers in the evening, sometimes appearing in broad daylight. However, other sources claim that these bats are late-evening fliers. The flying time of silver-haired bats is believed to be adjusted by the bat so that it will not conflict with the flying times of the red, hoary, or big brown bats. Silver haired-bats are believed to be one of the slowest flying bats in North America (possibly second to western pipestrelles), with a flight speed of 4.8-5.0 m/s.
Silver-haired bats are insectivorous. Their diet mainly consists of flies, beetles, and moths. However, these bats feed opportunistically on any concentration of insects they come across. They have a short-range foraging strategy, traveling over woodland ponds and streams. Silver-haired bats do not always feed in mid-flight; they have been caught in mouse traps, suggesting ground foraging, and they have been reported to consume larvae on trees.
Life Cycle : The breeding habits of this species are not well known. Adults mate in autumn and females store sperm from these matings until spring when fertilization occurs. The gestation period is 50-60 days. Females bear one litter per year of two young (occasionally one) in July.
At birth the young are wrinkled, pink, hairless, and weigh about 2 g (0.07 oz.). A few hours after birth the young become darkly pigmented. They are capable of flying at 3-4 weeks, and at least some begin breeding at the end of their first summer. Longevity is unknown.
Social Behavior: The lack of reports of large colonies of silver-haired bats, rather than the sightings of individuals of this secretive species, suggests it is solitary or roosts in small colonies throughout the year. Too little is known about social encounters to describe the social system and the means by which individuals communicate. Merriam and other naturalists have noted the near absence of males among Adirondack specimens as well as those obtained from many parts of the northern range of this species. Possibly, males remain at lower latitudes
The large number of rabies cases that have been attributed to the strain of rabies found in silver-haired bats has intrigued scientists and prompted several recent studies and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) formally recognized silver-haired bats as a leading cause of rabies on December 1st, 2003 (Bats). In several of these recent studies it has been hypothesized that the Ln strain has evolved genetic changes that may allow a higher likelihood of infection after superficial contact. After conducting a series of experiments comparing the strains of rabies virus found in silver-haired bats, domestic dogs, and coyotes it was found that the rabies virus from the silver-haired bat grew to higher titers in epithelial and muscle tissue and they also discovered changes in the molecular structure of the glycoprotein which may be linked to increased infectivity.
The unique roosting habits of silver-haired bats as well as the unusually large number of rabies cases attributed to them have led to numerous recent studies, however, these studies are sure to be followed by countless others as more information is discovered that could lead to explanations of the Ã¥strangeÏ€ connection between these bats and the deadly rabies virus.
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