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Bats have been given a bad rap since the dawn of time. Horror stories of bats imbedding themselves in women's hair, biting the innocent, spreading rabies and swooping at walkers have been around just as long as the bats themselves. And fortunately, all have been highly exaggerated.

There are eighteen different families of bats and two different suborders. Each classification has its own unique characteristics, but much the same behavior. Bats can be found on all continents, with the exception of Antarctica, where it is too cold for these delicate mammals to survive.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Bats are the only flying mammals still in existence today. With front limbs modified for flight and four membrane fingers and a thumb, this mammal is capable of flying at high speeds and walking on solid ground. Bats can also climb vertically up buildings and walls, making them more mobile than most other animals.

Bats range in size from 1-15 inches, with a wingspan of 2-5 feet.

The bat's head is deceivingly small, due the large appearance of its oversized ears. These ears often conditionally flick back and forth, giving the bat ultraprecise directional assessment. Along with whales, dolphins, and some shrew species, many bats use echolocation to maneuver and guide them. Bats emit short, high-frequency pulses of sound (usually well above the range of human hearing) and listen to the echoes returning from objects in the vicinity. Echolocation is used to locate and track flying and terrestrial prey, to avoid obstacles, and possibly to regulate altitude.

With the exception of the wing area, bats have a large amount of fur covering their bodies in shades of brown, tan, gray, or black. Red, yellow and orange variants are often found in many species, as well.

Bats have 38 permanent teeth, made up by incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Fruit bats use their small teeth to break the skins of berries, while other species use teeth to climb and maneuver themselves.

STRENGTH
Though small in size, the common bat is capable of holding its entire body weight, while standing upside down. This firm grip also allows the bat excellent hunting skills. Muscular thighs and ankles help to enable this athletic species to scale buildings, walls and trees.

LIVING CONDITIONS
Unlike other animals, bats do not have permanent homes. Crevices, caves, and buildings provide temporary refuge to the always migrating bat. Because bats are most active at night, it is not uncommon to find large numbers hanging from their feet inside dwellings, attics or from trees during daylight hours.

EATING HABITS
With the exception of the South American Vampire Bat, who relies on animal blood to survive, bats are fruit-eaters (fruit, nectar, pollen) or insect-eaters (fruit, insects, small animals, and fish). Bats are commonly found around high lit areas at night, where bugs often gather.

BIRTH
At birth, a young bat weighs from one-sixth to one-third as much as the mother and already has well-developed hind legs. This allows for the baby to cling to its mother or its nest. The young bat's wings are completely undeveloped at birth, requiring the mother to be it's sole provider of food and nutrients. Mother's provide their young with milk for five to six weeks and then begin teaching their young to forage.

MYTHS

SWOOPING
Contrary to popular thought, bats do not swoop at people. When people walk or perform activities at night, they are moving large amounts of bugs out of their way. Bats swoop to retrieve food that you have disturbed.

RABIES
While it is possible, of course, for bats to be exposed to rabies, not all bats are rabies carriers. In fact, like all other species, only a small percentage of bats carry disease.

HAIR
Bats do not dive for human hair in an attempt to entangle themselves. As stated previously, bats may dive for food around a person's head, but have no desire to come into contact with you.