Bats are one of those creatures that can create quite a reactive response in humans. They are rarely welcomed and often indiscriminately judged as vermin. Despite all the good they actually do for many ecosystems, they are almost seen as a pariah wherever they live. Unwelcome at best.
But for all the negative stigma, bats are incredibly useful creatures. They spread seeds and help plants thrive as a result. Some of our most valuable crop species around the globe – including bananas, dates and avocadoes – rely on this. Their faeces is also packed with nitrogen and a great fertilizer for our gardens and woodlands. The vast numbers of various bats also help to keep insect populations from getting out of control.
They are very agile, incredible flyers and mostly roost out of the way in tree tops or caves. So if they are so very nimble, do they have any predators? That is the focus of this post, what eats bats? And what other threats do they face or provide?
What Ara Bats?
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera, with over 1,300 species worldwide. The bat’s wing morphology, adapted for flight, is the key difference between them and their closest relatives, the primates. That’s right, their closest relatives are primates!
These small to medium-sized mammals have a spread wing shape when they fly, and they are the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. Their flight is very energy efficient, and they can travel great distances at night.
Many bats eat insects, but some species also eat fruit or other plants. Bats play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations. They also help pollinate flowers and disperse seeds.
Where Do Bats Live?
Bats are found on every continent except Antarctica. They roost in trees, caves, under the eaves of houses, in rock crevices, and even in the abandoned mines and tunnels of some abandoned mines.
Bats are nocturnal animals, meaning that they are active at night and sleep during the day. They use echolocation to help them navigate and find food in the dark.
What Eats Bats? Natural Predators
There are some really obscure predators of bats, some that you may find it hard to believe. For instance, there are some spiders, centipedes and fish that all prey on bats. But these are rare and not particularly representative. Here are a broad range of the more common predators of bats, and how they hunt.
Raccoons are omnivorous mammals that eat a variety of things, including fruits, vegetables, insects, and bats. Raccoons usually catch bats while they are resting, by climbing into their roosting areas, or laying close by to catch them as they come and go from the roost. Weasels and Mink are also known to do this. They have also been known to scavenge them from the ground, and Foxes are known to do this too, particularly in North America.
Barn owls are particularly adept at hunting bats, as they have excellent hearing and can locate their prey in the dark. Great horned owls are also successful predators of bats, as they are able to take down larger prey.
Owls typically hunt bats by perching in a tree and waiting for their prey to fly past. They will then swoop down and grab the bat with their talons. Owls will typically kill their prey with a powerful bite to the neck. They are particularly successful at hunting bats because they have excellent hearing and can locate their prey in the dark. They are also able to fly silently.
Cooper’s hawk, the sharp-shinned hawk, the bat hawk and the red-tailed hawk are some examples of species of Hawk that prey on bats. These hawks typically hunt during the day, when bats are roosting and are less able to defend themselves.
Cooper’s hawks are particularly successful at hunting bats, as they are able to fly silently and approach their prey undetected. Sharp-shinned hawks are also successful predators of bats, as they are able to take down smaller prey.
Hawks are particularly successful at hunting bats because they have excellent vision and can locate their prey at any time of day, from great height. They are also able to fly at high speeds and dive down on their prey.
There are a number of raptor species that are known to prey on bats, including the peregrine falcon, the goshawk, the bat falcon and the accipiter hawk. These raptors typically hunt during the day, when bats are roosting and are less able to defend themselves.
Peregrine falcons mostly prey on different birds, but are also particularly successful at hunting bats. These birds sit at high vantage points, such as in trees or on cliffs, searching for their prey and, once prey has been detected, they will fly to catch it. They dive down on their prey at great speed and from great height. They strike their prey with clenched talons and the impact of this is usually enough to kill their prey.
There are a number of snake species that prey on bats, including the king cobra, the boa constrictor, and the pit viper. King cobras are particularly successful at hunting bats, as they are able to climb trees and reach bats in their roosts. Boa constrictors are also successful predators of bats, as they are able to crush their prey with their powerful bodies.
Snakes are particularly successful at hunting bats because they can sense the heat of their prey. They are also able to strike quickly and kill their prey with a single bite. They have even been known to catch them while in flight which has even been caught on camera, in the first season of the BBC series Planet Earth.
There are a number of opossum species that prey on bats, including the Virginia opossum, the North American opossum, and the South American opossum. These opossums typically hunt at night, when bats are active.
Opossums typically prey on fruit bats, hiding in wait near fruit trees for an opportunistic moment, or catching bats while they are having a meal. They will also linger around bat roosts for opportunities much like raccoons.
Crocodiles are not typically considered to be predators of bats, as they do not typically hunt them. However, there have been reports of opportunistic crocodiles eating bats that have flown too close to their mouths. Particularly with saltwater crocs in South Australia.
Crocodiles typically hunt by lying in wait for their prey and then ambush them. With bats, crocodiles just simply wait for them to fly too close to a crocodile’s mouth, then snap at it with their quick acting jaw. A crocodile can rest with it’s mouth wide open, undetectable as a threat to the echolocation of a bat. When they get too close, the crocodile has a meal.
There are a number of cat species that prey on bats, including domestic cat breeds, the bobcat, and the lynx. These cats typically hunt at night, when bats are active. In the UK, bats don’t have many threats, and the domestic cat along with owls are their biggest predator there.
Domestic cats are particularly successful at hunting bats, as they are able to climb trees and reach bats in their roosts. They will also hunt any bat that is unfortunate enough to make its way into your home. Domestic cats do have the risk of contracting disease if they eat bats, including rabies. So it is best to deter them from doing this, or have them checked out if you know they have eaten a bat.
Humans typically hunt bats for food, for sport or for pest control. In some cultures, bat meat is considered to be a delicacy. In other cultures, bats are hunted for their fur or their teeth.
Some people also kill bats because they believe that they are pests. However, bats are actually beneficial to humans, as they help to control insect populations. They are also used in many scientific experiments, particularly those investigating their incredible immune systems.
Dangerous Diseases For Bats
There are a number of diseases that can kill bats, but there is one that kills more bats than any other disease or predator combined. White-nose syndrome is a fungal infection that has killed millions of bats in North America. It was first identified in 2007 and so far seems restricted to the Northern USA. It has decimated bat populations there, and is an ongoing threat.
Dangerous Diseases Bats Carry
Bats can carry a number of diseases that can be harmful to humans, including rabies, Ebola, and SARS. While most bats do not carry these diseases, it is important to be aware of the potential risks involved in contact with them.
Rabies is a virus that infects the central nervous system and is fatal to humans if not treated immediately. Ebola is a virus that causes hemorrhagic fever and is fatal in up to 90% of cases.
SARS is a virus that causes severe respiratory illness and can be fatal in up to 10% of cases.
While the risk of contracting these diseases from bats is low, it is important to take precautions when working with or around them. Anyone who has been exposed to contact with bats should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
Habitat loss is also a major threat to bats, as their natural roosts are often destroyed by humans. This can leave bats vulnerable to predation and can also lead to a decline in the population.
Bats are important animals and need our help to survive. We can help them by protecting their natural habitats and by avoiding activities that may harm them.
Bat Predator FAQs
- Birds of prey are the most common predators of bats, with owls being the most successful.
- The majority of bats killed each year die from white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection.
- Bats can also be killed by large, non-predatory animals, such as livestock.
- Predators of bats can include both native and introduced species.
- Bats are particularly vulnerable to predation while they are roosting during the day.
- Bats are often killed when they fly into things like wind turbines or power lines.
- Bats are an important part of the ecosystem, and their loss can have serious consequences.
- You can support bat conservation by donating to organizations like Bat Conservation International.