Huge ears and a lumpy nose identify the Ozark big-eared bat.
Photograph by Merlin D. Tuttle/Bat Conservation-International Inc.
Ozark Big-Eared Bat Range
Size relative to a tea cup:
The Ozark big-eared bat is an endangered species found only in a small number of caves in the southern central United States. Also known as the western big-eared bat, the long-eared bat, and the lump-nosed bat, its appearance is defined by a pair of outsize ears and a lump-adorned nose.
These bats, whose bodies are normally less than 4 inches (10 centimeters) long, have ears that extend more than an inch (2.5 centimeters) in length. Their ears are generally held erect, except during hibernation, when some bats coil them like ram’s horns.
Beyond the mythical ears, these bats have two distinctive facial glands on either side of their nose resembling a pair of mittens. Their fur is light to dark brown, and their bellies are tan. They have a sizeable wingspan as well, measuring some 12 to 13 inches (30 to 34 centimeters).
The Ozark big-eared bat feeds primarily on moths but may also eat other bugs in and around its forested hunting grounds. It makes its home in caves, relying on their protection during hibernation and maternity.
Mating among these bats is initiated with ritualized calls and affectionate head nuzzling. The female stores the male’s sperm until spring, when ovulation, fertilization, and gestation occur. A single baby, or pup, is born in May or June, already weighing one-fourth of an adult’s body weight. Baby bats mature quickly becoming fully independent and able to fly within two months.
The Ozark big-eared bat once lived in caves in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. However, they have apparently abandoned their Missouri habitat due to human encroachment and cave disturbance, and estimates put the remaining wild population at around 1,800. Conservationists are currently working to protect these numbers by minimizing human intrusions.