This beautiful creature is called a teenyweeny chocolate flappymouse. By us, anyway. Its more typical common name is “little brown bat,” but that’s a very boring name for a very not-boring animal, and we think teenyweeny chocolate flappymice deserve a name as cute and remarkable as they are.
Little brown bats— if we’re going to use the boring name— are in big trouble. In some parts of their range, their numbers have declined by up to 99% in 15 years. That’s huge! Here in Tennessee, they’re not doing quite as poorly as in the Northeast, but they’re still struggling quite a bit and are headed toward extinction.
The extinction of the teenyweeny chocolate flappymouse would be catastrophic for all life in North America, including human life. Little brown bats are insectivores with an unbelievable appetite for mosquitoes and other disease-carrying pests, as well as many invasive insects that destroy crops and trees. When we lose bats, we can lose so much more.
The main cause of the decline of the teenyweeny chocolate flappymouse is disturbance of the caves in which they hibernate— an issue that has caused problems in multiple ways. One issue is that humans introduced white nose fungus into their cave homes. This itchy disease causes bats to wake up during hibernation and scratch their noses. They burn through so much energy from scratching that they starve to death before spring, and many also die from secondary infections, acidosis, and electrolyte imbalances.
Our intrusion into hibernacula has caused other problems as well. While most caving enthusiasts make a point to not disturb bats, some cavers will intentionally enter wild caves where they know bats are hibernating because they want to get a closer look. This wakes the flappymice up and kills them before spring.
Another way that humans have harmed little brown bats is through extermination them when they move into our attics. Teenyweeny chocolate flappymice often choose attics as sites to form maternal colonies, where females stay while raising their young. Exterminators are often quick to kill them when this happens.
You can help little brown bats and other endangered bats! Please don’t disturb caves where bats are known to hibernate, and if you’re entering any cave, be sure to decontaminate all your supplies so you aren’t carrying fungal spores to new locations. If you have a colony of bats in your attic, please make sure that they are left alone until they’re done raising their young, if possible, and then close all entry points so they don’t return in the future. If you must remove them, choose a humane company that will definitively identify the species and will exclude them from your attic unharmed.
We need bats, and they need for us to look out for them. Please spread the word about appreciating our little brown bats!