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Fast Facts on Oklahoma Bats


Oklahoma has 24 species/subspecies of bat. Here are a few commonly asked questions about this intriguing mammal with wings.

Is a bat really a mammal?

Is a bat blind?

What is echolocation?

What do bats eat?

How does a bat hunt?

How many babies does a bat have?

Are bats aggressive?

Do bats carry rabies?

Is there really a vampire bat?

Where do bats live?

Which bat species are in Oklahoma?

Is a bat really a mammal?
Yes! Bats are the only flying mammals. As mammals, they are closely related to moles, rabbits, beavers, bobcats, deer, dolphins and even humans.

The bones in a bat’s wing are the same as those of the human arm and hand. The difference is that a bat’s finger bones are elongated and support a tough, elastic membrane used for flight.

Is a bat blind?
No. Bats have small eyes that are functional and sensitive to light. Eyesight helps a bat perceive its environment, but vision is not its primary navigational tool. Bats primarily navigate by using echolocation.

What is echolocation?
Echolocation is similar to sonar. Bats emit pulses of high frequency sound waves that reflect (echo) back to them. In this way bats maneuver around objects in their path and are able to target tiny flying insects.

The sounds that bats emit during echolocation may occur at a rate of a few per second to more than 500 per second! Human ears cannot hear these high-pitched sounds. Several Oklahoma bats, such as Rafinesque’s and Townsend’s big-eared bats, have greatly enlarged ears to help in echolocation.

What do bats eat?
All bats in Oklahoma feed on insects such as moths, mosquitoes, cucumber and June beetles, leafhoppers and even scorpions, to name just a few. In fact, bats are the only major predators of these night-flying insects. Some bats can consume more than 3,000 mosquitoes each night!

How does a bat hunt?
Using echolocation, a bat is able to determine the distance, speed and direction of its prey. A bat will then trap the insect in its wing or tail membranes, reach down and take it into its mouth. This action, as well as the hunting chase, result in erratic flight patterns most people are familiar with when they observe bats feeding in the late evening or around lights at night.

How many babies does a bat have?
Bats generally mate in fall and delay fertilization until spring, when the female usually gives birth to one offspring. Red bats, however, may produce twins or quadruplets.

Young bats develop rapidly and most are able to fly within two to five weeks after birth. A newborn bat has well-developed feet and claws that are used to cling to its mother or to roost when the mother leaves to eat. Many young bat deaths occur when humans, often unknowingly, disturb a maternity roost colony. When disturbed, the mother bat becomes excited and flies, jerking the young bats and causing them to fall.

Are bats aggressive?
All healthy bats try to avoid humans by taking flight and are not purposefully aggressive. Most bats in Oklahoma are about the size of a mouse and use their small teeth and weak jaws to grind up insects.

You should avoid handling bats because several species, such as the hoary and big brown bats, do have large teeth that can puncture skin if handled improperly.

Do bats carry rabies?
As with all mammals, it is possible for a bat to be infected with the rabies virus. However, studies of bat concentrations have shown that only one-half of one percent of the population contracts the disease. That’s a lower rate of incidence than found in skunks, coyotes, raccoons, red fox, dogs and cats.

Even so, people should not handle or disturb bats, especially those that are active and appear sick during daylight hours. If bitten, immediately wash the bite with soap and water and consult a physician.

One handling exception: During late June through early July, female red bats and their attached pups occasionally will be found on the ground. Use gloves to place these bats on a nearby tree.

Is there really a vampire bat?
Vampire bats do exist, but not in Oklahoma. Three species of vampire bats live in North America, but they generally do not appear in the United States. One individual vampire bat was recorded in the extreme southwest of Texas, but that was the only occurrence ever in the United States.

Vampire bats do not suck blood — they make a small incision with their sharp front teeth and lap up the blood with their tongue. Vampires in Mexico and South America feed on the blood of livestock such as cattle and horses, as well as deer, wild pigs and even seals.

Where do bats live?
In general, bats seek out a variety of daytime retreats such as caves, rock crevices, old buildings, bridges, mines and trees. Different species require different roost sites. Some species, such as the Mexican free-tailed and gray bats, live in large colonies in caves. A few solitary species, such as the red bat, roost in trees.

Oklahoma bats either hibernate during the winter months or migrate to warmer areas. Those that hibernate build up a fat reserve to sustain them through the winter. It is important to not disturb hibernating bats. If stirred, the bats may use up all of their stored fat reserve and could die before spring.

Which bat species are in Oklahoma?

Common Name Scientific Name
Southeastern Bat
Gray Bat
Northern Myotis
Eastern Small-footed Bat
Western Small-footed Bat
Little Brown Myotis
Indiana Bat
Cave Myotis
Yuma Bat
Silver-haired Bat
Tri-colored Bat
Canyon Bat
Big Brown Bat
Evening Bat
Pallid Bat
Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat
Townsend’s Big-eared Bat:
        Western Big-eared Bat
        Ozark Big-eared Bat
Eastern Red Bat
Hoary Bat
Seminole Bat
Mexican Free-tailed Bat
Big Free-tailed Bat
Greater Mastiff Bat
Myotis austroriparius
Myotis grisescens
Myotis septentrionalis
Myotis leibii
Myotis ciliolabrum
Myotis lucifugus
Myotis sodalist
Myotis velifer
Myotis yumanensis
Lasionycteris noctivagans
Perimyotis subflavus
Parastrellus hesperus
Eptesicus fuscus
Nycticeius humeralis
Antrozous pallidus
Corynorhinus rafinesquii

Corynorhinus townsendii pallescens
Corynorhinus townsendii ingens
Lasiurus borealis
Lasiurus cinereus
Lasiurus seminolus
Tadarida brasiliensis
Tadarida macrotis
Eumops perotis