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Updated: 06/18/2014 12:22:26AM

Bats are helpful and harmless

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The Evening bat has a body length of 1.9 to 2.6 inches and a wingspan of 10 to11 inches. Bats can deliver a fierce bite and should not be handled.

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Probably no mammal has more superstitions, misconceptions and mysteries to it than the helpful and harmless bat. Their nocturnal habits, eerie behavior such as swarming out of caves, and their darting swift flight punctuated by high pitched squeaks, plus that some species dine on blood, makes them feared and reviled.

A few bat facts: Most people, including those who fear bats, have never seen a bat. Bats are the only mammal that can truly fly. Bats are not rodents; they belong to the order Chiroptera, which means "hand-wing.” Fossil records indicate bats have been around for 65 million years. Bats are not blind. Bats navigate by “echolocation” — they use ultrasonic sounds that echo off solid objects. Bats are timid and do not attack people. They won't get tangled in your hair. Bats are capable of carrying rabies, but probably less than 1/2 of 1 percent carry the disease. When bats do get rabies they usually die within a few days. If an infected bat is handled it may bite in self-defense and transmit the disease. All young bats are fed milk from their mothers until they are capable of foraging on their own.

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