Small Mammals and Bats

If you have found an injured or sick bat, please ensure no children, pets or other animals

can come into contact with it.  Due to White-Nose Syndrome, we are tracking
reports of bats through our Report a Bat Form.

Small Mammals

Short-tailed Shrew, photo by John MacGregor

Short-tailed Shrew
Photo by John MacGregor


Twenty-seven small mammal species are known to occur in Kentucky. This number is based on a statewide small mammal survey conducted by KDFWR that began in 1988 to determine the distribution of all small mammals in KY. The survey utilized pitfall, bottle, and snap traps placed in a variety of habitats on public and private lands. This comprehensive survey produced over 9000 specimens and determined that the Northern Short-tailed shrew was the most widely distributed small mammal in the state. Species with extremely limited distributions included the Southern Short-tailed Shrew, Southern Red-backed Vole, Allegheny Woodrat, Marsh Rice Rat, Cotton Mouse, Hispid Cotton Rat, Masked Shrew, and the Long-tailed Shrew.  



Bats, Photo by Sara Gardner

Photo by Sara Gardner

Did you know Kentucky is home to 15 bat species from the Family Vespertilionidae and one bat species from the family Molossidae? All bat species in Kentucky are insectivorous. Some bat species use caves year round, while others migrate south for the winter. Most bat species hibernate in caves during the winter months and use trees or other structures during the summer to form bachelor or maternity colonies.

For more information, view a list of species of greatest conservation need under Kentucky's Wildlife Action Plan.

Common Myths about Bats

Are bats blind? Do they drink blood? Will they fly into my hair? Here’s some common myths and facts about bats:

Myth:  Bats are flying rodents.

Fact:  Bats are actually more closely related to primates than rodents and are the only true flying mammals

Myth:  Bats get caught in people’s hair because they’re “blind as a bat”.

Fact:  Bats have excellent vision. Combined with echolocation, they generally don’t run into things and will not get in your hair.

Myth:  All bats drink blood.

Fact:  Only vampire bats feed on blood and they do not occur here.

Myth:  All bats carry rabies.

Fact:  Less than one half of one percent carry rabies. 

Bat Behavior

Gray bats leaving their roost

Gray bats leaving their roost

During the spring months, most species of bats will be transitioning from their wintering sites to their summer sites to establish maternity and bachelor colonies. The pregnant females will usually go to the same area where they were born to have their young. Sometimes these areas can be man-made structures such houses, attics, barns, or garages. These bats will also roost under window shutters and behind gutters, any place that provides privacy, protection, and warmth for them so they can raise their young.

The summer months (late May to July) are when baby bats, called pups, are being born. This is a time of year when you may start to see bats on the ground or in your house. Not all baby bats survive, unfortunately. Mid to late July is typically when they learn to fly, or become volant. They are like teenagers first learning to drive. They often end up in your house or garage as they can take wrong turns testing out their wings. The best thing to do is to keep all pets and children away from them as they typically will take off again when they have rested. However, if you see what appears to be an apparent injury, please refer to the list of wildlife rehabilitators.

During the fall months, the opposite occurs. Bats will be leaving their summer areas to migrate back to their wintering areas, which can be caves or warmer climates just like birds. During this time, bats can become confused and tired and will find a place to rest, sometimes in our houses, garages, or even on the sides of buildings. The best thing to do is to leave them alone and keep children and pets away. 

Kentucky Bat Working Group

The KY Bat Working Group (KBWG) was formed in 1999 and is comprised of researchers, educators, environmental consultants, government agencies, and interested citizens. Learn more about the KBWG and Kentucky’s bat species.

Bat Houses

Bat houses can provide bats an alternative to roosting in your attic or garage. If built and installed correctly, they can house hundreds of bats safely. 


White-nose Syndrome

Info about White-nose Syndrome can be found here


Bats, just like any other mammal, can contract and transmit rabies.  More information on bats and rabies.


Histoplasmosis is a respiratory disease caused by a fungus which grows in soil enriched by animal droppings. Learn more about histoplasmosis and bats.

Bats in the home, Photo by Brian Carver

Bats in the home
Photo by Brian Carver

Bats in Your Home

If you find a bat or bats in your house, garage, or other structure, there are some solutions. One solution is to call a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO). A good NWCO will determine where the bats are roosting, the main entrance/exit area, if it is a maternity colony with young, and if the young are old enough to fly. Once they have determined where the colony is roosting, the main entrance/exit area, and if the young can fly, then they can properly perform an exclusion. A successful exclusion is one that is done in such a way that no bats are harmed. This can only be done if it is determined that all the young can fly. If you conduct an exclusion and trap the young inside, it will result in their death. This can easily be avoided if the exclusion is done properly and at the right time of year.

Injured or Sick Bats

If you have found an injured or sick bat, please ensure no children, pets or other animals can come into contact with it. Due to WNS, we are tracking reports of bats through our Report a Bat form.

If the bat is on the ground and does not appear to be injured, you can cover it with a small box (shoebox size) and use a flat piece of cardboard to slip between the ground and the bat. Once the bat is secure in the box, you can then find a tree to place the bat on without handling it. If the bat is still there after 24 hours, please use the Report a Bat Form.

Bats as Pets

In many cases, a bat removed from the wild does not live long. Not only is the practice detrimental to the bat, holding bats in captivity is against the law. Unless the bat is obtained from a legal source and a Captive Wildlife Permit is obtained in advance, 301 KAR 2:081 prohibits holding native bats as a pet.  


The Scientific and Educational Collecting Permit authorizes the collecting and holding, even temporarily of wildlife for zoological, educational or scientific purposes.  Go to the Scientific and Educational Collecting page for more information and to download the application.