Glowing Eyes in the Dark

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Fox Going up the food chain, larger nocturnal predators like the red fox and grey fox, are about the size of a small dog weighing nine to 12 pounds, and are typically seen more frequently in the summer. The grey tends to be smaller and stealthier, finding refuge in trees for vantage points and stealing eggs. Foxes are crepuscular, generally hunt at dusk and at dawn, and in midwinter you are more likely to see them out in the daylight if they are cold and hungry, scavenging for food. They are omnivorous and eat mostly rabbits and mice, as well as other small rodents, birds, insects, nuts and fruits.

Bats Bats are the only mammal that can truly fly and Virginia has 17 of the more than 1,000 species of bats, according to the game department. Both tree bats and cave bats reside in the Blue Ridge area, with the big brown bat and little brown bat being the most common cave bats.

Bats generally don’t have much color to them. The ones with the most color are the tree bats like the red and the hoary. Silver-haired bats are more blackish with white tips on the wings that give them their silver look.

Red bats are the only bat species that we have in the East where males and females have distinct coloring. Males are Irish-setter red, while females have a grizzled look to them – white tipping on the fir that gives them a dirtier look – not clean, deep red.

Bats control the mosquito population and can eat as much as 3,000 insects per night.

Bats communicate, hunt and avoid collisions by using ultrasound, creating high-pitched sounds that reverberate off objects in their path. Their calls are too high of a frequency for humans to hear.

A fungus, known as white-nose syndrome, is killing large numbers of bats across the country.It’s found in bats during hibernation and grows on them when their body temperatures drop. It’s typically seen on the face and wings of bats, and it causes them to wake during hibernation and use up their fat reserves that they survive off during the winter. Bats with this fungus can be found flying around midwinter rather than hibernating, causing them to either freeze or starve to death.

“They are seeing a large fatality rate in the northeast and it’s spreading south. In some caves, 90 percent of the bats are dying,” Reynolds says. “It’s now spread south through Virginia and Tennessee.”

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