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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/661

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

OCTOBER, 1875.


 

BATS AND THEIR YOUNG.
By Prof. BURT G. WILDER.

EXCEPTING the colder regions, all parts of the world are inhabited by bats. There are many kinds, and they often occur in very large numbers. Probably there are very few persons, young or old, who have not seen a bat. Yet, aside from professed naturalists, it is equally probable that there are still fewer who, from direct observation, could give any accurate description of their appearance or their habits, their structure, or their relations with the "birds of the air," or the "beasts of the earth," to both of which bats bear more or less resemblance.

Nor is this strange; for bats pass the day in caves and deserted buildings, and fly about in pursuit of prey only in the twilight. Much less rapid than that of birds, their flight is so irregular as to render it difficult to follow their course, and in the dusk they are often mistaken for somewhat eccentric members of the swallow family.

Their very aspect is repulsive; they often emit an unpleasant odor; and, worse than all, there is reason for believing them to serve as the vehicle by which the Cimex lectularius, that terror of house-keepers, has sometimes gained entrance to habitations where its presence would never have been suspected.

When taken they bite so fiercely that we may be thankful that they are no larger, and that, as a rule, they prefer insects to human beings as food. No tiger could be more violent in its demonstrations or more capable of using its only weapons, the sharp, almost needle-like eye-teeth.

This accounts for the rarity of instances of the domestication of bats, and this, in part, for the difficulty of making any extended observations upon them. Having found recorded but two such cases, I will begin my account of bats in general with a brief history of one individual which I succeeded in taming quite thoroughly. It was