Vampire Bat, a bat that feeds on fresh blood. A number of large, fruit-eating bats are miscalled vampire bats. True vampire bats have upper incisor teeth shaped like canines. There are three species, found in various areas of Latin America.

Vampire bats have no tails and are about three inches (7.5 cm) long. They shelter in areas of almost complete darkness, such as eaves and hollow trees. To obtain their food, they will attack almost any warm-blooded animal that is resting quietly. After biting a victim, they suck the flowing blood. Although the wound and amount of blood lost are not serious, these bats are dangerous because they can transmit such diseases as rabies.

Are Some Bats Vampires?

A few kinds of bats feed on the blood of other mammals. These bats are called vampire bats.

Common vampire bats, which live in Mexico and South America, feed on the blood of horses, cattle, and fowl (birds such as chickens). Although it is rare, vampire bats can also feed on human blood.

A vampire bat searches for a sleeping animal. Then it lands nearby and climbs onto the animal. The bat uses its teeth to cut away the fur of the animal and quickly makes a small cut into the victim’s skin. Its teeth are so sharp that the sleeping animal doesn’t even feel the cut.

Once an animal starts bleeding, the vampire bat uses its tongue to lap up blood from the wound.

Does a Vampire Bat Kill Its Prey?

Vampire bats are very small mammals. They usually weigh about 1 ounce (28 grams). Their wingspan might measure 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) across. They eat only about 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of blood a day. Most animals never notice that they’ve been bitten by a vampire bat.

Sometimes, however, several vampire bats feed on the same animal at once. If the animal is small or sick, it can grow weak and even die from blood loss.

The greater danger, though, is that vampire bats often spread diseases to their victims. If a vampire bat drinks the blood of an animal that has a disease, the bat can then carry the germs of that disease and spread them to other animals it bites. Sometimes the bat itself can become sick, as well.

Vampire bats make up the family Desmodontidae.