East Tennessee Bats


Knoxville, Tenn. (WATE) – In celebration of Bat Week, shared by the Blue Ridge Parkway, here are all the bats you can find in East Tennessee.

Across the state of Tennessee, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency reports that there are 15 different types of bats in the state. Of these, TWRA says 13 can be found in parts of eastern Tennessee, including the two types that are endangered.

The Blue Ridge Parkway took to Facebook to share interesting bat facts. Some of these facts included:

  • 14 bat species have been counted/documented on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and there are somewhere between 1400 and 2000 species worldwide.
  • All of the bats found along the boardwalk and along the entire east coast are insectivores. Bats eat a wide variety of insects. About 70% of bats worldwide are insectivorous or carnivorous. The remaining 30% feed on fruit and nectar, with the exception of the vampire bat which feeds on blood, mainly livestock.
  • They are the only flying mammals. They have the largest airfoil of any flying animal, making them very maneuverable.
  • Insectivorous bats use echolocation to navigate and locate their prey. The frequency of this sonar is between 20 and 200 kHz. That’s outside of human hearing abilities which are good because the sonar is actually very loud, between 50 and 120 decibels, which is as loud as a smoke detector ringing 4 inches from your head. Sometimes people can hear bats squealing, which is their way of communicating.
  • All bats sleep upside down. As soon as they release their grip, they are in flight.
  • Some bats hibernate, some migrate, and some do both.
  • White-nose syndrome and habitat loss are the two biggest threats to bats. WNS is highly contagious and will wipe out entire colonies once in a cave.

Bats recorded in eastern Tennessee include little brown bat, gray bat, northern long-eared bat, Indiana bat, small-eared bat, eastern toe-footed bat, silver-haired bat, tri-colored bat, big brown bat, eastern red-haired bat, seminole bat, hoary bat, evening bat and Rafinesque’s big-eared bat.

Of these bats, the Gray Bat and the Indiana Bat are the bats considered endangered, according to TWRA. They said the gray bat is the largest of Tennessee’s “mouse-eared bats,” and though they often weigh half an ounce or less. They eat mosquitoes, caddisflies, beetles, moths, flies and other aquatic insects.

The Indiana Bat is smaller, ranging from one to two tenths of an ounce in weight, according to TWRA. They prefer to eat moths, but also beetles, caddisflies and other flies.

East Tennessee is also home to the eastern short-footed bat, which is the smallest bat in the eastern United States; the silver-haired bat, which is the slowest-flying bat in North America; the tricolor bath which occurs in more caves in eastern North America than any other bat species; and the Seminole bat, which is only listed in three counties statewide.

The Seminole Bat only appears to be frequently found in Monroe County on the TWRA map.

Some contenders for the title of scariest bat might also include the hoary bat, which is the largest bat species in Tennessee according to TWRA and very richly colored, and Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, which has a very distinct and elaborate set of ears.

TWRA explains that Rafinesque’s big-eared bat has “remarkably large ears”, which are shaped like rabbit ears. TWRA further says that the bat coils and folds its ears like ram’s horns, and if disturbed, “the ears spread out and move in circles like antennae.”

To learn more about bats in Tennessee, visit the TWRA website.


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