Young cats are called kittens. And then there are young foxes, which are referred to as ‘cubs’, ‘pups’, or ‘kits’, one of which is the same term that is used to describe young bears. It’s easy to get confused when trying to keep track of all the unique names that young animals have—so let’s clear up any confusion when it comes to bats.
What exactly is a young bat called, you might wonder? The answer is pup. That’s right, a young bat is a pup immediately upon birth, and it becomes an adult when it’s able to fledge from it’s mother and hunt or forage on its own. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the early life of bat pups, so we can better understand what happens during their youth to prepare them for a successful adult life.
Bat Pup Life, Days 0-10
Believe it or not, bat pups are born in much the same way that human beings are born. They are, after all, mammals just like we are. Bat birth normally results in a single pup being born, however, there have been recorded cases of bats having twins!
During the first week or so of the pup’s life, it’s going to be spending its time in the roost, where it will be left by its parents, who will be off hunting for food during the evening and early morning hours. The bat pup will nurse on its mother’s teats until it develops the wing strength required for flight.
Bat Pup Life, Days 11-30
Assuming the young bat doesn’t die from starvation or a fall, it’s on to “bat adolescence”. When the bat pup reaches a few weeks old and grows strong enough to be able to grasp onto its mother, it can join her in flight, nursing on her while getting a free ride.
While bat pups get a feel for flying the skies, these fragile first few weeks can still be fatal for them if they crawl to a ledge and fall over. Young bats are also prone to having accidents while learning to fly, which can cause death for many of them. Because of these factors, the mortality rate among bat pups can be quite high.
Bat Pup Life, Days 30+
Once the bat pup enters the 3-6 week age range, it’s time for it to start flying on its own and hunting independently. For many bat species, like the Big Brown Bat—a bat that is native to almost all of North America—pups start exploring their environment via flight well before the 5th week.
There are multiple factors that play into the mortality rate of adult bats once they’ve successfully fledged from their roost. Availability and accessibility of food are key, but there is also the variable of predation.
Bat predators actively seek out young, weak bat pups because of their inability to defend themselves. Also, because fledgeling bats haven’t mastered their flying skills yet, they’re not going to be as adept at escaping, say, a swooping Barn Owl, if the situation calls for it. Other bat predators include:
- Raccoons (…which are known to crawl into trees and caves for the expressed purpose of invading bat roosts)
Presuming the bat pup is able to fend for itself in the wide, wide world of hunting, foraging, and evading predators, it’s likely that it will live on to lead a long, healthy life. Bats can live to some pretty impressive ages, by the way, with the oldest bat on record coming in at an impressive 41 years old.
Protecting Bat Pups
Because of the vulnerable nature of bat pups, it’s especially critical that they be protected and left to thrive on their own, in peace. That’s why, if you ever encounter a bat colony in which there are resting bat pups, take extra care to not disturb them. Within a few weeks, those pups will be fully grown and darting through the skies on their own!
Remember that bats are mammals, just like human beings. That common thread between us should be motivation enough to respect their way of life. Long live the bat!