There are almost 1,000 different kinds of bats. Bats eat mostly insects, but when insects are not available during winter, bats in Missouri survive our colder months by hibernating or migrating to warmer places.
Hibernation is a state of rest in which an animal's heart rate is drastically reduced to help conserve energy often down to one beat every few seconds. A hibernating bat survives on a few grams of stored fat during its six-month hibernation period. Bats can lose up to half their body weight during hibernation. Each time a bat is awakened, it may lose up to two months of stored fat reserves. Bats repeatedly disturbed may emerge early from their roosts. If they emerge before insects arrive, they can starve.
Already endangered by human disturbances, Gray and Indiana bats are now even more threatened by the epidemic of white nose syndrome. Conservationists are protecting these species by gating or fencing important bat caves and placing warning signs at other caves to minimize human disturbance.
You can encourage bat populations by building or buying bat boxes. You’ll help the bats and they’ll help you reduce local mosquito populations. Plans for building your own bat house are here.
Discover Nature is heard Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning on KBIA. It is brought to you by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Discover Nature is a production of the Missouri Department of Conservation.