How can anyone in Alaska think that bats are scary?
Despite what you see in the movies, these fascinating flying mammals wouldn’t hurt a fly! Well, technically, they would hurt a fly, or a mosquito, or a moth. But other than that, bats are harmless. 🙂
Did you know there are 4 kinds of bats in Alaska?
It’s hard to believe the diversity and amount of species that can be found in Alaska! But, unfortunately, when you see a bat, it’s typically pretty difficult to determine which kind of bat it is. These nocturnal creatures fly incredibly fast and are only active at night.
#1. Silver-haired Bat
- Lasionycteris noctivagans
- Medium-sized bat, flathead, and the upper part of the tail are covered in thick fur.
- Mostly black all over with white tips on hairs, with a wingspan that is approximately 11.5 inches.
This species is known to fly more slowly than other bats in Alaska.
Look for Silver-haired Bats in forests inside tree cavities or bark crevices. They’ve also been known to seek shelter in outbuildings.
Silver-haired Bat Range Map
Silver-haired Bats hunt for soft-bodied insects, such as moths. Interestingly, they also eat a lot of spiders. They accomplish this feat by foraging low to the ground to find food, unlike many other bats.
Unfortunately, rabies occurs more often in this species when compared to other bats.
#2. Little Brown Bat
- Myotis lucifugus
- Glossy brown fur on the body. Wings are hairless and black with a wingspan that is approximately 9 to 11 inches.
- Despite its name, it has no connection to the Big Brown Bat.
This bat is common and lives throughout Alaska.
Look for them in sheltered places such as human structures, woodpiles, tree hollows, and occasionally caves.
Little Brown Bat Range Map
Little Brown Bats will commonly use a bat house for roosting. Many people put up bat houses to attract them to their property to control pests like mosquitos or insects that harm crops.
Little Brown Bats only have a few natural predators, like owls or raccoons. Unfortunately, most of their mortality is caused by parasites or White-nose syndrome.
White-nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that grows around the bats’ mouths, ears, and wings. This illness is spread during hibernation and is responsible for the loss of over one million Little Brown Bats between 2006 and 2011. As of 2018, the Little Brown Bat is an endangered species.
#3. Long-legged Bat
- Myotis Volans
- Fur color can vary from light or dark brown to reddish-brown. Tips of ears touch the side of their nose. Wingspan is approximately 10 to 12 inches.
- Unlike other bats, they have fur on the underside of their wings from their elbows to their knees.
- They got their name from having a longer tibia bone when compared to other bats.
The Long-legged Bat has unique feet that allow them to hang upside down for an extended time and not waste any energy. This feat is accomplished by locking their toes in place. In addition, special cavities in their head prevent blood from going to their brain.
Long-legged Bat Range Map
These bats prefer to roost in barks of trees, crevices in rocks, caves, and even buildings. They like to spend time in higher elevations in summer and then in winter will come down and live and hibernate in caves and mines.
Like other bats in Alaska, they primarily eat mainly moths using echolocation. However, the Long-legged Bat differs because they get a head start over other bats! They do this by leaving their roost early, foraging before sunset, and then eating throughout the entire night.
Check out this video to see how the Long-legged Bat uses echolocation to catch moths!
#4. California Myotis
- Myotis californicus
- Smaller bat with brown fur and black ears, wings, legs, and feet.
- Sloping forehead and a short tail that does not extend past the membrane.
Look for this bat in Alaska in forested habitats in lower elevations. They roost in rock crevices, dead or hollowed trees, under loose bark, and buildings in the summer. In winter, you’ll find them in caves or mines.
California Myotis Range Map
The females and males roost in separate places during the summer but then reunite during hibernation.
The California Myotis flies slower and more erratic as it hunts near the edges of the forest or over water.
Do you need additional help identifying bats in Alaska?
If so, this field guide should be able to help you.
Which of these bats have you seen before in Alaska?
Leave a comment below!