- Status: Endangered
- Known as: Indiana Bat.
- Estimated numbers left in the wild: 244,000.
A tiny winged insectivore from the central United States, the Indiana bat is about 5 centimeters long, has a wingspan of around 25 centimeters, and weighs 4 to 10 grams. The fur of this bat is dark brown to black, sometimes with a grey tinge. It is otherwise a typical bat in outward appearance.
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During the summer, Indiana bats consume huge numbers of insects at night, hunting their quarry with the help of echolocation and eating up to half their own weight every night. Mosquitoes, moths, midges, beetles, and other night-flying insects are all consumed by this bat.
When daylight comes, the bat retreats beneath the loose bark of dead or dying trees and sleeps. These bats consume many insects harmful to humans or their crops and perform a valuable role in controlling insects for the overall ecological balance.
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In winter, Indiana bats retreat to caves in huge numbers. They will only live in caves with particular internal conditions, including a temperature below 10 C but above 0 C. This limits their hibernation habitat to a minimal selection of caves and old mines.
They hibernate for roughly half the year, living off their fat reserves. Young bats are raised during the summer months under the bark of trees, whereas many as 100 females may gather in a maternity colony to raise their young. Bats may live up to 20 years in the wild, but a lifespan of 14 years is more typical.
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Indiana bats are found throughout the eastern and central United States, though as their name suggests, a large concentration is found in Indiana. Other major populations are located in the states of New York, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri.
In summer, Indiana bats live in forested areas near watercourses where many insects are available. In winter, they hibernate in caves and sometimes abandoned mine-shafts.
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Habitat loss and fragmentation are naturally one of the threats to the Indiana bat. These bats require forested land, and logging or other lands “improvement” projects can seriously affect the local availability of suitable living spaces.
Furthermore, insecticides and pesticides likely poison many of these bats, besides cutting back on the number of insects available in certain areas during the summer.
Human activity also directly threatens these bats. Cave tours to view the bats can be highly destructive despite the essentially benign intentions of those going on them. Indiana bats dislike disturbances while hibernating and move to another spot, putting large numbers at serious risk during a cold season when their food is lacking.
Attempts to shield the bats by building gates in the cave mouths can be harmful also if they are built improperly – dangerously changing conditions inside the cave or accidentally excluding the very bats they are meant to protect.
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Indiana bats are fully protected by law, harming, harassing, or killing the animals being specifically illegal. Gates are built in some critical cave mouths to keep people from entering and disturbing the hibernating bats.
The Conservation Fund and other organizations are also working to extend fully protected areas where the bats can live undisturbed. At the same time, educational outreach programs acquaint people with the beneficial behavior of these bats and the reasons why they are an important natural heritage that should be preserved.
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Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve the Indiana Bat? Then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.