The Vampire Bat
The vampire bat is a small bat found in warm climates, which feeds solely on the fresh blood of other mammals. Learn more about this misunderstood mammal.
The vampire bat's reputation is founded on countless myths and almost universal fear, but the reality of this tiny bat's fascinating life is far less lurid than fiction.
The vampire bat has long, fine bones that support the supple flight membranes that are the bat's fingers. The wings are furled neatly when the bat is resting or walking. The vampire bat raises itself up on its hind legs and wrists to scurry about on the ground. Its body is a dark grey-brown with brown-tinged fur on the underparts. The angled upper incisors are used for piercing skin. Special saliva trickles down grooves in the underside of the bat's tongue and into host's wound to prevent blood from clotting. A clawed thumb extends from the front edge of the wing membrane. The bat uses it to cling to and climb over its host.
The vampire bat only lives in warm tropical and subtropical regions of central and south america. It can not survive in cold climates. During the day the vampire bat roosts in a sheltered place. It prefers a deep cave wher it can retreat far from the sunlight.
The vampire bat can mate at any time of the year, but most pups are born in either April to May or October to November. The female has only one pup at a time, with which she builds a close bond. At birth, the pup is well developed and its eyes are open. For the first two months it feeds solely on milk. When the pup is four months old, its mother takes it out foraging and shows it how to feed. At the age of nine or ten months, the youngster can feed on its own.
The vampire bat drinks the blood of mammals, such as cattle, horses, donkeys, and pigs, even turkeys and chickens. Once it finds a good source, it returns to feed for several nights. However, the bat shares food with its colony to ensure survival and when feeding, a bat warns off intruders from other bat colonies that approach its host.
The vampire bat roosts alone, in a small group or a large colony. Most social units consist of up to 20 adult females with their young. The females within a group bond closely, it is common for the same bats to roost together every night. After dark, the bats leave the roost, flying slowly and silently a yard or so above the ground. They usually forage within an area 3 to 5 miles from the roost, but may search up to 11 miles away.
The vampire bat has been the object of intense eradication programs in South America because it transmits rabies to cattle. Nonetheless, the vampire bat is not threatened.