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Common Misconceptions About Bats
. USFWS photo, Columbia ES Field Office
Gray Bat (Myotis grisescens)
USFWS photo, Columbia ES Field Office

“All Bats Have Rabies.” Less than ½ of 1% of bats carry the rabies virus (University of Florida). In addition, rabid bats are seldom aggressive. Fewer than 40 people in the United States are known to have contracted rabies from bats during the past 40 years. Far more people are killed by dog attacks, bee stings, power mowers, or lightning than rabies from bats. However, rabies is a dangerous disease so you should avoid direct contact with bats as well as other wild animals. The Center for Disease Control, USFWS, and Bat Conservation International have cooperatively developed a public health guide: Bats and Rabies.

“Bats get tangled in peoples hair.” Although bats may occasionally fly very close to someone's face while catching insects, they do not get stuck in people's hair. That's because the bats ability to echolocate is so acute that it can avoid obstacles no wider than a piece of thread.

“Bats suck your blood.” By far the most famous bats are the vampire bats. These amazing creatures are found in Mexico, Central America and South America. Vampires feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals such as birds, horses and cattle. Vampire bats do not suck blood. The bats obtain blood by making a small cut in the skin of a sleeping animal with their razor-sharp teeth and then lapping up the blood as it flows from the wound. There is an anticoagulant in the bat's saliva that helps to prevent the animal's blood from clotting until the bat has finished its meal. The bat's saliva also contains an anesthetic that reduces the likelihood of the animal feeling the prick. Each bat requires only about two tablespoons of blood every day, so the loss of blood to a prey animal is small and rarely causes any harm.

“Bats are rodents.” Bats may resemble rodents in many ways, but they are not rodents. In fact, there is recent evidence that bats may be more closely related to primates (which include humans) than to rodents (Museum of Paleontology, University of California at Berkeley).

“Bats are blind.” Although they can't see color, bats can see better than we do at night (University of California at Berkeley). And, many bats can also “see” in the dark by using echolocation.

Information for this web site was taken almost exclusively from:

Bats of the United States
Michael J. Harvey
Tennessee Technological University
J. Scott Atlenbach
University of New Mexico
Troy L. Best
Auburn University

Published by
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

In Cooperation with the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Asheville, North Carolina Field Office


Copies of this publication are available from the Service's Asheville, North Carolina Field Office (828) 258-3939


Last updated: November 5, 2007

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