The Expository Files


Incredible Arkansas Bats


For a few days this summer I enjoyed a trip of a lifetime with my seven year old grandson. We spent three days at Devil’s Den State Park in northwest Arkansas. We hiked six of the mountain trails, did a little boating and explored a cave. It was a great experience both of us will never forget. We are already making plans for future trips into the mountains. The caves of Devil’s Den have become the home of several species of bats. One evening we attended a presentation by a Park Ranger. We heard him explain the basics, inform us about the various species in the area, dispel popular myths and explain some of the habits of these amazing flying mammals. Here are two examples of facts we learned from Ranger Harry.

Bats have a valuable device in their system called Echolocation. Bats can see, but they are nocturnal. They sleep during the day (protecting them from natural predators), then come out at night to feed. Bats send out sound waves. When the sound hits an object and the echo returns, in their interpretation of the return signal, they are able to locate the inspect that will become their meal! This is called Echolocation. The bat can use this system, not only to find the insect, but also to learn the size, shape and texture of the meal. Most bats use echolocation to navigate in the dark and select an insect from the available “menu.” Early in the evening, you may be able to see the bats (flying in their typical zigzag pattern, finding and eating inspects), but you will not be able to hear the sounds they emit. To detect these bat sounds, you can purchase an Echolocation Detection Device (for a couple of hundreds dollars). These devices were invented to pick up the special frequencies of particular bats, and “translate” them into sounds audible to humans. Ranger Harry had one. At about 8:50, he turned it on. We were able to “hear” the bats within range using their sophisticated Echolocation systems to pick insects for their evening meal. I read more about this after our trip:

“Echolocation is a method of sensory perception by which certain animals orient themselves to their surroundings, detect obstacles, communicate with others, and find food. In echolocation a series of short, high-pitched sounds are emitted by an animal. These sounds travel out away from the animal and then bounce off objects and surfaces in the animal's path creating an echo. The echo returns to the animal, giving it a sense about what is in its path. A bat can determine an object's size, shape, direction, distance, and motion. This echolocation system is so accurate that bats can detect insects the size of gnats and objects as fine as a human hair. Scientists would like to know more about how bats use echolocation so they can help blind people detect objects with sound.”

Maternal Instinct. Bats generally roost together in large numbers, packing their babies in tight spaces (cool and dark). The female produces a single offspring, called “pups.” In certain areas where bats find habitation, cave wall space is carpeted with bat pups. Born without fur, the babies pack closely together in densities of up to 500 per square foot to share body heat and stay warm. Mothers usually roost together in another part of the cave, each returning to nurse her baby several times a day. For many years, it was generally believed that mothers probably fed any young they found. However, modern studies demonstrate that each mother actually locates her own baby through a sophisticated recognition system involving scent and call. This is amazing when you consider, they must find their young amidst thousands or millions of other active mothers and babies.

If you have occasion to experience bats in some educational setting with your children or grandchildren, you have an awe-inspiring opportunity. Read to them from Genesis chapter one. Never miss a chance to praise the creative power of God. Never miss a chance to point out the huge deficiency in the human theories of evolution (unintelligent design). The bats, the caves, the mountains, the weather, the people – all testimony that “all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made,” (Jno. 1:3).


By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 12.9; September 2005