Bats: Facts on the Fly

Compiled from information published by:
Bat Conservation Internationals

Last October we had the opportunity to hear Lesley
Hale from the Ministry of Natural Resources speak
on the subject of Ontario’s Bats: Conservation
Issues and Monitoring Programs.

Leslie talked about two recent introductions of
environmental threats to bats, wind turbines and
white-nose syndrome (WNS) and outlined the
conservation strategies for these fascinating night

Eight species of bats are found in this province.
Some (those affected by white-nose syndrome)
hibernate in caves while others migrate as far as
the Gulf of Mexico for our winter.

Bats are the only mammals that can fly, some as
fast as 35 km an hour. Some Ontario bats can live
for 30 years, though most have much shorter lives.
They usually have only one or two offspring in a

How do bats move around in the dark?

All bats can see, but some use a special sonar
system called echolocation. These bats make high
frequency calls and then listen for echoes to
bounce from the object in front of them. They are
able to form pictures in their brains from the
reflected sounds just like we can interpret light with
our eyes.

Why are bats important?

Bats play a critical role in Ontario’s ecosystems as
nocturnal insectivores eating thousands of insects a
night. They are considered one of North America’s
most valuable species groups for agricultural pest

How can you attract bats?

Bats have to find new roosts on their own. Existing
evidence strongly suggests that lures or attractants
(including bat guano) will not attract bats to a bat
house. Bats investigate new roosting opportunities
while foraging at night, and they are expert at
detecting crevices, cracks, nooks and crannies that
offer shelter from the elements and predators. Bat
houses installed on buildings or poles are easier for
bats to locate, have greater occupancy rates and
are occupied two and a half times faster than those
mounted on trees.

What is white-nose syndrome?

White-nose syndrome is a condition that has killed
more than five million bats in eastern North
America. It is dubbed “white-nose syndrome”
because infected bats often have white fungus on
their faces. The fungus grows on bats while they
hibernate in caves and abandoned mines. It seems
to irritate and cause bats to waken, speeding up
their metabolism so they use their winter fat stores
more quickly. They may leave hibernation sites and
fly around outside, often in the daytime, when it’s
still winter and there are no food sources available.
The bat will starve to death.

What can you do?

Entering caves or abandoned mines may disturb
hibernating bats and reduce their ability to survive
the winter. There is also some evidence that people
can spread the fungus that’s linked to the WNS if
they travel to different caves. To help curb the
spread of the syndrome and minimize deaths, stay
out of non-commercial caves and abandoned
mines where bats may be present.

If you see bats flying during the daytime in winter,
or you see dead bats, please, contact the Canadian
Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at 1-866-673-
4781, the Natural Resources Information Centre at
1-800-667-1940, or your local MNR office.

Don’t touch bats, whether living or dead, as they
can carry rabies.

For instructions how to build a bat house and more
information go to: