Brown bats–big and little

In Northwestern Ontario, there are six species of bats. By far, the most common one is the Little Brown Bat, which is found in almost all of Canada below the tree line.
The average length of this little animal is about 3.5 inches. As its names tells you, it is almost entirely brown, with a sort of grayish wash underneath.
Long hairs are reddish coloured, which gives the animal a coppery sheen.
Bats are the only mammals which can really fly. Their forelimbs (front legs in cows, arms in humans) are modified for the purpose of flight. The bones are long and very thin, some about the thickness of a toothpick.
Between the bones is a very thin skin. This forms a series of folds which can be held quite closely to the body when not flying–but which can form a very large lifting surface when extended.
These little flying mammals live entirely on insects. In other parts of the world, some bats eat fruit, and some really do like meat–and blood.
The insectivorous ones catch insects in a very remarkable way. As they fly, they continually emit high-pitched squeaks–most of them so high in the musical scale that humans can’t hear them at all. These squeaks reflect back from bugs in the air, and the bat can then tell where the next part of his dinner is.
This is the same idea as modern sonar or radar, only radar uses electronic signals.
In fact, bats can tell when there is anything in the air around them. In a room full of wires running in every direction, for instance, the bats can always avoid them–even if the wires are closer together than their wingspan.
Another quite common bat around here is the Big Brown Bat. In spite of its name, it isn’t all that big, maybe about five inches. Its colour is also brown but darker than the Little one.
Also, it is not quite so widespread (not as far north or as far east).
Our bats all catch their food on the wing, and they do it all at night. During the day, they will hide themselves away in a cave, a cavity, a dense tree, or a “bat-box,” which a lot of people make for them nowadays.
They live on moths, beetles, mosquitoes, and any other insects which are active at night.
Bats have a bad name, and no one knows just why. Those legends about the blood-sucking bats in Europe are just that–legends. There really are blood-feeding bats but they are all in South America.
They feed on sleeping mammals, like livestock. They make a small incision in open skin and then lick up the blood as it flows out.
Bats will never get into your hair, either. Some experimentalists have actually put bats into the hair of long-haired girls to find out. In a few seconds, the bats wiggle their way out.
Just for your information, the largest bat in the world is the Pacific Flying Fox, with a wingspan of five feet or more. The smallest is from the Philippines and it doesn’t weigh as much as a dime.
The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) weighs about a quarter of an ounce; the Big Brown Bat (Epticescus fuscus) a bit more than half an ounce. Nevertheless, a single bat can consume over 3,000 insects in a single night.
In Northern Ontario, we ought to be really glad that they are here.

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