Blood Drinking Flying Mammals
Bats are the only mammals that fly- and vampire bats are the only mammals that fly and drink blood. They are found in both arid and humid regions of the South American tropics and subtropics. Bats’ wings are actually long fingers covered by thin skin, and they have furry bodies. These tailless mammals have weak legs and do not walk very well. Vampire bats live in caves, hanging upside down from the roof, in colonies of 100 bats or more.
Vampire bats are quite small. Their bodies are only around three and a half inches long- about the length of an average adult’s thumb, while their wings are around 7 inches- the length of an average Dad’s hand. They weigh only about 2 ounces, although after a good feed their weight can double! Vampire bats hunt in the darkest part of the night, usually attacking sleeping cattle. While flying, these bats send out high-pitched sounds that people cannot hear. These sounds bounce off other objects. The bat listens for the bounced sound, and can determine where objects are located. This process is known as echolocation. Vampire bats don’t drink enough blood to harm the cattle in any way- just enough to fill their tummies. However, their bites can cause nasty infections and diseases.
Vampire bats are probably the most intelligent of all bats as well. Each bat must compile and remember a detailed mental map of its ever changing flight routes to where it has found food in the past. After feeding they are often so bloated with concentrated blood that they can scarcely even fly.
The real tragedy surrounding the Vampire bat is the bad reputation they have gotten as a result of a combination of the myths surrounding their feeding habits and the fear farmers have of them spreading disease.