Vampire Bat Scientific Name: Desmodus rotundus
All about the Vampire Bat
Ah, the dreaded Vampire bat. Although the primary food source of the Vampire bat is blood, no one is going to slap a pair of skinny jeans on it and name it Edward: similarities between Bella’s lover and the Vampire bat end with the diet. Or do they?….
Pale, dreamy, cold as stone, and shimmery in the Sun… no, not really! The Vampire bat is approximately 3.5 inches long with a wingspan of 7 inches. The upper body of the bat is light to dark gray with a lighter colored underside. It is about two ounces and has a short, conical muzzle. Vampire bats tend to have small ears and a short tail, and have special heat sensors on the nose to detect the scent of flowing blood on its prey. These bats are known for their strong legs and can actually run on all fours up to seven miles per hour. The vampire bat has a few back teeth that are quite small, but on the other hand, their front teeth are [gulp] long, sharp, and specialized for cutting These specialized front teeth are used to make perfectly sized incisions in their prey from which they can drink the blood. Ok, so they do resemble Dracula somewhat. But what came first, the Vampire, or the Vampire bat?
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Where does the Vampire bat live, and what does it eat?
The range of the Vampire bat extends from the tropics of Mexico through Central and South America in arid to tropical and sub-tropical climates.
The favorite roost of the Vampire bat is one that is almost completely dark like a cave, old well, hollow tree, or abandoned building. The Vampire bat remains in its roost all day, suspended upside down in total darkness until ready to leave their roost and hunt. Typical Vampire bat roosts contain approximately 100 bats, but some roosts have been found to be as large as 1000 bats. Because Vampire bats are in the tropics, they do not undergo a hibernation period.
True to their name, the Vampire bat feeds primarily on the blood of its prey. As a carnivore, this blood sucking bat feeds on sleeping cattle and horses, but they have actually been known to feed on people as well. The Vampire bat will feed on most warm-blooded mammals and birds. Even though they drink the blood of their victim for about 30 minutes, they typically do not remove enough blood to harm their host. The bite of a Vampire bat can cause infections and disease, but will not transform the victim into a blood-sucking flyer. Striking their victims from the ground, the Vampire bat will land near its prey and approach it on all fours. Sensing the blood of its prey with heat sensors, the bat will then strike with its razor sharp front teeth, sink in, and lap up blood with its tongue. The saliva of a Vampire bat has a special property that keeps the blood of its victim from clotting and uses its teeth to shave away hairs that get in the way of blood consumption.
The Vampire bat’s Circle of Life
Even though the Vampire bat does not hibernate, it has an unusually long gestation period. Female Vampire bats give birth to one pup after a gestation period of 90-120 days. Young Vampire bats develop slowly. As a pup, the Vampire bat does not feed on blood but milk from its mother. The pup of a Vampire bat latches on to its mother and remains there, not being fully weaned for up to three months. Mother Vampire bats will “adopt” abandoned or orphaned pups from other bats and nurse them which is a trait not characteristic of most bat species. Primary predators of the Vampire bat are eagles and hawks. The Vampire bat lives on average 10 years in the wild.
Vampire Bats and Humans
Because of its tendency to fly close to the ground while feeding, the Vampire bat will occasionally fly by humans, but it is by no means a common occurrence. Bats tend to stay away from us, but sometimes roost in structures inhabited by humans. Although they prefer caves, mines, and hollow trees, the Vampire bat may also roost inside old buildings which can become a problem due to their prodigious production of urine (strictly liquid diet) and ability to cause damage to structural features.
To date, only one human death has been attributed to the bite of a Vampire bat, but it wasn’t because the victim’s blood was sucked dry, it was through the transmission of rabies.
The Vampire bat is also one of the species of bats found to be a carrier of rabies; however, very few cases have been reported of rabies transmitted from Vampire bats to humans. In fact, more disease is spread through bugs and insects than through bats. Diseases like rabies and other bacteria-based diseases are a concern, however, so handling of the Vampire bat should be done with caution.
Vampire bats do occasionally bite humans, but most cases reported were of people sleeping in the open or near cattle. The bite of a Vampire bat causes a small wound, often on the toe. Even though the bat will consume only about a tablespoon of blood from a bite, the anticoagulant properties of the bat’s saliva cause the wound to bleed profusely without clotting. The bite itself will do no harm, but medical attention should be sought immediately in the rare case that the bat was infected with rabies.
Professional Vampire Bat Control
Professional control of the Vampire bat is recommended, especially if the bat has taken up residence in your castle – or – home. An experienced professional bat removal company will get the job done from start to finish.
- Keeping a lookout: If you’ve got any old coffins lying around, it shouldn’t be difficult to find the Vampire bat’s roost. No, not really. They’re more likely to be roosting in the attic, eaves, or garage. Be on the lookout during the night hours for the emergence of this bloodsucking fiend – then board up all entrances to its roost. If the bats can’t get in, they will all eventually come out and find a new place to roost. Professionals can usually identify the entry points after a couple nights’ observation.
- Stake through the heart: Actually, the Vampire bat isn’t killed as part of the exclusion process. But if you’re looking for a way to kill an actual vampire – a stake through the heart is apparently the only thing that works. A professional will actually just relocate the roost elsewhere – sometimes to a bat house and sometimes to captivity. After sealing off any entrances, a professional will most likely use a bat valve or other exclusion device to give the bats a one-way ticket out of your structure.
- Granular Repellent such as Bat-A-Way may also be used in conjunction with the sealing of entrances and installation of a valve. This is a humane way of keeping the bats away from their usual roosting site. They will eventually just find a new place to roost.
DIY and Green Solutions for Vampire Bat Control
Where is Buffy when you need her? Not to worry, there are ways of controlling the Vampire bat even without a teenage vampire slayer!
- Seal up all the entrances, once located, with bird netting. Leave one open for the bat valve. Sealing is best done at night while bats are out feeding.
- Also used by professionals, a bat valve or cone is a one-way opening that is installed in the entry and exit points of a bat roost. This leaves an exit for the bat, but the valve is designed so that it cannot get back in. Buy one at a home improvement store and install it all by yourself (only after all primary entrances are sealed, of course).
- SOLD! It’s like realty for bats – get them out of their old roost and into a new one. Bat houses can be made from a kit or purchased at a garden store. The Vampire bat can be a surprisingly welcome addition to your garden.
The Vampire bat is considered a pest when it enters homes or other structures. It can also be a danger to cattle and other birds and mammals. Roosts of the bat can be very destructive to architecture and its debris (urine) spread harmful bacteria. If found indoors or near a human-inhabited structure, exclusion methods should be employed immediately.