The eastern small-footed bat is among the smallest bats in eastern North America, and is known for its small feet which are 7 to 8 millimeters long and black face-mask.

About the Eastern Small-Footed Bat

easternsmallfootedbatThe bat is between sixty five to ninety five millimeters in length, and has a wingspan of 210 to 250 millimeters, and weighs between 4 to 8 grams. The fur on the dorsal part of their body is dark at the roots, and fades to a light brown at the tips. This gives the bats a yellow-brown appearance. The bat's fur is a dull gray color on the dorsal side of the body which helps to camouflage it.

The eastern small-footed bat has a black face-mask which is a unique characteristic of the bat. The bats also have black ears, wings and the membrane between the legs and tail which is supported by a protruding cartridge. They have a very short and flat head, erect ears, very broad at the base and a short flat nose. Their tail has a length of between 25 to 45 millimeters long and protrudes past the inter-femoral membrane.

During spring and summer months, they prefer to stay in buildings, rock bluffs, rocky cliffs, turnpike tunnels and shale fields. Here they roost in crevices and under rocks during the daytime. The largest populations of the bats are found in Pennsylvania, New York, Western Virginia and West Virginia.

The bats feed primarily on flying insects such as flies, mosquitoes, beetles and moths. However, moths compose nearly half of their diet, because they forage primarily on soft-bodied prey. They avoid hard prey due to their small, delicate skulls. Their stomachs fill within an hour of eating. They typically forage in and along wooded areas below canopy height, along cliffs and over streams and ponds. These bats emerge to forage shortly after sunset.

The bats are nocturnal as a result they roost during the day and are active at night. During the summer, they leave their roosting site at dusk and fly around caves and open fields. They have a slower fluttering motion when flying compared to the other small bats. They do not migrate, but instead change their roosting locations every day. The males and females have different roosting preferences. They prefer to live in coniferous or deciduous forests and are active in mountain ranges with a height of 240–1125 meters. They fly repeated patterns within less than one meter of the floor of a cave or crevice, then hang up on the wall, and fly again. The bats normally fly slowly and erratically at a distance of one to three meters above the ground.

The bats are one of the last species to go into hibernation in the fall and the first to leave during spring. The hibernation period lasts from late November to early April. They prefer to hibernate in mines and caves that have a short length of 150 miles. They also hibernate near the entrance of their hibernacula because of the temperatures which sometimes dip below zero, and the humidity is very low. They can tolerate lower temperatures and have been found in very cold caves and mines. They have very strong homing instincts, and will always return to the same cave to hibernate even if moved to a different location. They spend most of their lives upside down, but during hibernation, they lie horizontally and sometimes on cave floors.

The Eastern small-footed bat has a slow reproduction where they can only have one offspring a year. Mating often occurs in autumn with the female storing the male’s sperm throughout the period of hibernation. Fertilization occurs in spring when the females are active again, and gestation occurs between 50 to 60 days with the young being born in late May and early June. When they are born, the bats weigh 20 to 35 percent of their mother's weight. This size is the reason that the mother can have only one at a time as it would be hard to get enough food for more than one baby. Males and females are usually the same size when born.

The bats are under a great threat of pollution, and disturbance from human beings during hibernation. The hibernating bats are affected by very low levels of light, heat, and noise which keep them awake and make them spend energy depleting critical fat reserves. Repeated incidences of these disturbances make them very susceptible to death. The bats are also at a high risk from gas and oil drilling, mining and quarrying because of their high dependency on rare ecological features.

Eastern small-footed bats are also endangered due to white nose syndrome, which is caused by a fungus. This fungus grows in cold, humid environments like caves and mines where many bats hibernate. It affects the wing membrane, which maintains water balance in the bats. Thirst will then wake bats from hibernation, and the result is that the infected animals will be seen flying outside mines and caves during the winter.

The Eastern small-footed bats live between 6 to 12 years in the wild. This depends on habitat availability, predators, and fungi or parasites. However, the survival rates of the males is higher than the females. This may be due to the reason that the females use more energy during the reproduction process.

The bats can pose a risk because they carry rabies, which is deadly to humans. They may also carry histoplasmosis, which is a disease that is caused by a fungus. The bats are also considered a nuisance because they roost in human structures.

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