5 Fangtastic Facts About This Spooky Species You Need to Know
When we think Halloween, a few things come to mind including trick or treating, pumpkin carving, vampires, and bats – just to name a few.
But did you know there’s 18 bat species in Canada?
The little brown bat, otherwise known as Myotis lucifugus, is one of these spooky species.
And the most frightening thing of all? They’re endangered, meaning they face imminent extinction or extirpation in Ontario. This is despite half their global range being within Canada!
To celebrate Halloween, we’re sharing 5 facts about the little brown bat you need to know – and what you can do to help protect this species.
What do they look like?
The little brown bat is just that – tiny!
They weigh between four and 14 grams, about as heavy as our beloved loonie or toonie.
They can be up to five centimetres long with a wingspan ranging from 22 to 27 centimetres – less than a foot wide.
Where do they live?
In Canada, the little brown bat can be found across all provinces and territories, except Nunavut. You can also find them in the northern half of the United States and cooler, mountain regions of central Mexico.
The distance they travel for winter migration is also much shorter than other winged friends. The little brown bat may move up to 1,000 km from their summer to winter roosts to hibernate. They typically choose caves or abandoned mines thanks to the humidity and above-freezing temperatures during the colder months.
Little brown bats typically begin hibernation around October or November and will remain in that state until March or April. During hibernation, they slow their metabolism, heart rate, and breathing.
This unique bat is one of two bat species in Ontario that will use human structures in the summer, such as buildings or bat boxes, for their maternity colony habitat.
What do they eat?
Because they’re so small, little brown bats must feed on equally tiny species.
Flying insects are their main source of food, and they’re able to catch over 1,000 insects within one hour.
Is the little brown bat blind?
Despite the ghoulish rumours, little brown bats have great vision. They use these visual cues alongside echolocation to navigate and find food, especially during long-distance migrations.
When bats use echolocation, they emit sound waves at a high frequency – above human hearing – to bounce off objects in their environment. This helps them figure out what’s in their path.
What threatens their survival?
One of the biggest threats currently facing little brown bats is white nose syndrome. This disease stems from a fungus suspected of being introduced to North America from Europe.
Little brown bats are introduced to the fungus in cold but humid environments, just like the mines and caves they hibernate in throughout winter. The effect of white nose syndrome is a disruption in their hibernation cycle, resulting in the use of body fat supplies before spring and finding more food. This disease also impacts the wing membrane – or the little brown bat’s ability to maintain water balance. They may wake up early from their hibernation due to thirst and fly outside during winter in search of water.
Bats at over three quarters of Ontario’s hibernation sites are at risk of disappearing due to this disease. Less bats means fewer mating options to choose from.
Other threats to the little brown bats include:
- Pesticides, as they poison or reduce their food supply,
- Habitat loss, including overly groomed shorelines and removing large or dead trees from shorelines, and
- Wind turbines, as some are installed in the migratory path of bats and cause injury or death due to the air pressure changes.
How can you help the little brown bat?
There’s no need to drive yourself batty trying to figure out how to help this endangered species! We have two ways you can make a difference today.
You can create roosting sites in your area, such as putting up a bat house.
CPAWS-OV also works across the little brown bat’s habitat to protect the lands they depend on to thrive. You can make a donation today to help push this goal forward.