What’s the Big Flap, anyway?
They’re sometimes called “mice with wings,” “flying rodents,” or “leather mouse.” None of these nicknames are true. Mice are rodents, cousins to rats, squirrels and chipmunks. Bats, however, are completely different creatures, and are not even remotely related to mice or rats.
Bats are mammals – warm-blooded vertebrates with hair. They feed their young with milk and have well-developed brains. They like to eat insects. An adult brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes a day! They feed at night and are most active in the two to three hours after sunset.
Bats hibernate in the winter. They can squeeze through a very small opening, sometimes as little as 6 mm, and may make their home in a quiet corner of your home. They give birth in May or June to one or two pups. There are two species of bat in the Uxbridge area: the little brown bat and the big brown bat.
Little brown bats used to be the most common type of bat in southern Ontario. They are 8 to 9 cm long, weighing 5 to 14 grams (about as much as a loonie or toonie), with a wingspan of 22 to 27 cm. They’ve been severely affected by “white nose disease” that’s caused by a fungus. Their population has plummeted in recent years and they’re now on the endangered species list.
Big brown bats are larger, 9 to 13 cm long, weighing 23 grams, with a wingspan of 32 to 39 cm. These bats can tolerate a wide range of roosts for hibernation, and are the most likely species to be hibernating in your house, barn or shed in the winter.
The recent discovery of a small colony of little brown bats in a barn workshop near Uxbridge spurred members of a local theatre company to arrange safer winter accommodations for these important little creatures. Wildlife rescue specialist Blair Woods joined me on a very chilly morning to remove eight little brown bats from the workshop used by OnStage Uxbridge.
Woods operates “Back To The Woods” and he rehomes many different kinds of wildlife across the GTA and beyond. He works with Stefanie MacEwan, founder and licensed wildlife custodian at Soper Creek Wildlife Rescue, where the workshop bats will spend the winter living in a specially designed “bat box.” They will be returned to this area in the spring.
Woods can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations to care for rescued wildlife (including “our” bats) can be made on the Soper Creek website: www.sopercreekwildlife.com – click the DONATE button – be sure to “write a note” to let them know you’re part of the Uxbridge community, or donate through OnStage Uxbridge (onstageuxbridge.com) until the end of January to receive a tax receipt.
Nancy Melcher is The Nature Nut. Send details of your sightings or questions about the natural world to: email@example.com.