Here at the Animal Services Division, we commonly encounter the same questions concerning wildlife. "How big do they get?", "How many are there?", "Why are they in my attic?", "How do I get rid of them?", "What do they eat?" or more importantly, "Will they eat me or my children?". Many of the questions are different depending on the actual species involved. With this in mind, we have created species specific Web pages for each of our most common wildlife. The page that you happen to be on now is geared towards bats.
Bats are not a common animal that our citizens are confronted with but sometimes one is encountered. Usually, bats avoid contact with humans. If you find a bat, DO NOT APPROACH OR HANDLE THE BAT. Call Amarillo Animal Control at 806.378.3092 immediately and keep everyone away from the bat. The most dangerous thing about bats is that they are known rabies carries. If someone comes in contact with a bat, notify your family doctor immediately.
IDENTIFICATION: While there are many different kinds of bats, the most common to Texas is the Mexican Free Tailed bat. This bat has short and sleek fur that is drab brown, gray and black colored with leathery wings. The bat is the only mammal in the world that has wings that can flap. This fact causes some confusion amongst our residents since the common Chimney Swift bird resembles a bat when it is roosting in the chimney.
HABITAT: Some bats are solitary creatures keeping away from all others, like the Vesper or Common bat. Some bats will form colonies of up to fifty (50) million individuals, like the Mexican Free Tailed bat. All bats prefer quiet, cool and undisturbed places like caves, hollow trees, rock cliffs, foliage and even some buildings. Some bats will migrate from summer sites here in Texas to winter sites in Mexico and Central America while others will go into hibernation. Bats will cluster together to preserve their body heat when roosting. That is why when you see bats in a cave on television there are often millions of them all roosting next to each other.
DIET: Some bats are fruit eaters while others eat insects. The fruit eating bats can be identified by their long, thin head and tongue which they use to get to the fruit and nectar within flowers. These bats do the job of bees by helping pollinate the plants and trees they visit. They also help spread the seeds they eat in their droppings which gives the seeds a good, fertilized place to start growing thereby spreading new plants to other areas. These bats are also known for their good sense of smell. The insect eating bats have a short, flat head with keen eyesight and hearing to hunt insects. A colony of insect eating bats can eat at least 550,000 lbs. of insects nightly. Most of the insects are caught in mid flight.
LIFE HISTORY: While the Vesper bat has been known to live for 30 years, not much is known about the Mexican Free Tailed bat. All bats are active at night and sometimes can be seen leaving their roosts at dusk and returning at dawn. This is a major attraction in Austin where bats have taken up residence under a bridge. People come from all over to watch the bats leave on their nightly journey. Bats have one offspring per litter and only one litter per year. Female bats can delay fertilization by holding the males sperm for up to 7 months. Gestation may last from 40 to 240 days depending on the availability of a ready food source. New born bats take about a year to reach sexual maturity.
TRAPPING SUGGESTIONS: If you believe you have a bat in your house DO NOT APPROACH IT. Call Amarillo Animal Control at 806.378.3092 immediately and keep everyone away from the bat. If there are bats in your attic, the best thing to do is call a professional remover who will relocate the bats and go through your house sealing up any entry holes the bats may have used. Bats are a very misunderstood species. They do not get tangled in your hair nor are they blind. Some bats have great eyesight. While bats are known for carrying rabies and should not be handled, they provide an invaluable service to man by helping pollinate plants, spreading seeds and eating tons of problem insects. Some people have even built bat boxes in their back yards to encourage bats to live nearby. Bats usually enter our homes when we leave a door open or through the chimney because they feel the cool, air conditioned air and believe they are flying into a cave. To help prevent this, put a cap on you chimney and do not leave your door open while bring in groceries.