10 Types of Bats in South Dakota

Types of Bats in South Dakota
Photo by Pixel-mixer on Pixabay

Bats are unique in South Dakota since they inhabit many areas ranging from mountain caves to city parks.

Several different types of bats in South Dakota call the state home. 

The most common type is the Big Brown Bat, found almost everywhere in South Dakota.

Other types of bats in South Dakota include the Hoary Bat, Ghost-faced Bat, and Cave Myotis. 

These uncommon types of bats in South Dakota can be seen in specific parts of the state, mainly along mountainous regions or cave systems.

With so many diverse types of bats living throughout South Dakota, it’s no wonder why these mammals have become such an important part of the region’s ecology and overall environment.

1. The Big Brown Bat

Big Brown Bat - Types of Bats in Maryland
by Furryscaly is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) is one of the most common types of bats in South Dakota.

This bat species prefers to roost in dry and sheltered areas, particularly hollow trees or attics.

During the summer, they form small nursery colonies with up to 20 individuals roosting beneath tree bark or urban buildings.

With a body length of 4-5 inches, Big Brown Bats are slightly larger than their cousin, the Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus).

They have characteristic brown fur around their eyes, cheeks, and back, giving it their name.

In addition to forests and open fields, these bats can live in cities and urban areas with abundant insects to feed on.

The Big Brown Bat feeds mainly on beetles but eats moths, caddisflies, flies, and other flying insects.

Some specimens have been spotted consuming wasps and spiders as well.

Due to its nocturnal nature, it performs acrobatic maneuvers during night flights that enable it to capture prey more successfully than day-flying insects would be able to do so during sunlight hours.

Their large ears help them detect even the smallest moving objects in their environment.

Apart from feeding mainly on insect prey sources, the biggest threat facing Big Brown Bats is often human disturbance due to them roosting in populated areas like dwellings or other suitable shelters.

The main predators are owls, who hunt at night when these bats are most active.

Hence, they typically form nursery colonies underneath buildings away from open fields where raptors would likely attack them during daylight hours.

2. The Hoary Bat

The Hoary Bat is a bat found in the South Dakota area. It is medium in size with long wings and a short tail.

These types of bats in South Dakota have fur that includes shades of brown, orange, red, and gray. 

The Hoary Bat has a unique adaptation to its environment that sets it apart from other bats; it has a built-in thermoregulation system that helps it to survive long periods without food or rest by regulating its temperature in hot or cold weather.

With their large wingspan, they can travel great distances for food and shelter, often migrating yearly between summering grounds and hibernation spots. 

These types of bats in South Dakota are primarily insectivores, meaning they feed on small insects such as mayflies, moths, and dragonflies.

They can be spotted flying close to the ground at night when temperatures cool down but roost in trees or caves during the day for protection from predators.

The Hoary Bat is an important species for providing valuable biological data and also contributes to maintaining ecosystem health by controlling pests like mosquitos and beetles.

3. Silver-haired Bat

Silver-haired Bat - Types of Bats in Maryland
by Madame LaZonga is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Silver-haired Bat is also on our list of types of bats in South Dakota. It is characterized by its silver fur, black ears, and tail, and two large eyes set high on its head.

These mammals are small, weighing between 8–14 grams and measuring up to 10 cm in length from nose to tail tip. 

Regarding diet, the Silver-haired Bat primarily feeds on flying insects such as caddisflies and moths which they capture mid-flight.

They are known to roost inside dead trees or tree cavities during the day but have also been documented using abandoned buildings as part of their daily activity cycle.

While not considered threatened or at risk, monitoring populations of Silver-haired Bats is important to understand how their population numbers can fluctuate with environmental changes over time.

4. Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat
by USFWS Headquarters is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) is found throughout the South Dakota region. Its range reaches from Canada to Central America, and it is one of few species in both hemispheres. 

These common bats in South Dakota can be found in most habitats, from urban areas to forests.

It lives in colonies as large as 500 individuals and prefers roosts with temperatures around sixty degrees Fahrenheit.

Little brown bats feed primarily on flying insects such as moths, midges, and mosquitoes. 

They use echolocation making sound waves and listening for echoes to locate their prey while in flight and even when hanging upside down!

With its wide distribution, the Little Brown Bat is an ecologically important species across much of North America.

5. Eastern Red Bat

Eastern Red Bat - Types of Bats in Maryland
by Life Lenses is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) is a species of tree-dwelling bat found throughout parts of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

In South Dakota, this species can be found in deciduous woodlands, where the tree canopy provides shelter from predators and the lower temperatures that come with the changing seasons. 

The Eastern red bat usually roosts alone in large trees, up to 10-25 feet off the ground.

Their diet consists mainly of moths, flies, and other small insects, which they hunt at dusk or during the night using echolocation. 

Other than migration between different regions during winter months, these types of bats in South Dakota are relatively mild seasonal migrants within their standards compared to other bats.

This species plays an important role in controlling insect populations around various sites of woodland habitat in South Dakota.

6. Western small-footed Myotis

South Dakota is home to various species of bats, including the Western Small-footed Myotis.

These small brown and gray creatures are non-threatening and generally friendly to humans.

They belong to the family Vespertilionidae (evening bats) and feed primarily on insects or fruit. 

Western Small-footed Myotis usually roost in large colonies under shelter from caves, abandoned mines, or tree cavities.

They tend to be active near dawn and dusk, flying swiftly over open rural areas such as fields and farmland, snatching delicious snacks along the way!

Although these tiny types of bats in South Dakota may look unassuming, they play a vital role in maintaining a healthy environment by controlling populations of nocturnal insects that can cause damage to crops.

7. The Fringed Myotis

The Fringed Myotis
by USFWS Mountain Prairie is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

The Fringed Myotis (Myotis thysanodes) is a bat native to South Dakota.

Fringed Myotis bats are typically small in size, averaging 3 ½ inches in length, and vary from light to dark brown coloration on their backs, with a paler underside. 

They roost in crevices and trees and feed on insect pests like moths and beetles.

The long hairs along their wrists aid them in catching prey by acting as “fringes” that help them maneuver prey toward their mouths when closing in.

Their long ears have been adapted for nocturnal hunting and provide echolocating capability for navigating prey items.

Fringed Myotis is listed as a Special Concern Species in the state due to a lack of detailed research on these bats, threats posed by habitat loss, disturbance, wind turbines, and pesticides.

8. Long-legged Bat

The Long-legged Bat (Myotis volans) is located primarily in the western United States, including states like South Dakota.

It prefers habitats such as native prairies and grasslands, crop fields, pastures, and vacant lots, with fewer trees to roost. 

These types of bats in South Dakota construct day roosts in tree hollows and cracks from late summer to fall when they enter hibernation.

They feed on insects at night during early spring through late fall months.

During the winter, these bats form maternity colonies exclusively consisting of female bats and their young offspring. 

Long-legged bats have been observed in South Dakota since 2005 after being absent for over 50 years due to various reasons ranging from the drainage of wetlands caused by development projects to toxic pesticide use.

Conservation efforts in recent years have resulted in increasing numbers of these species around the state as they begin to reoccupy suitable habitats again.

9. Townsend’s Big-eared Bat

Townsend's Big-eared Bat
by USFWS Headquarters is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) is next on our list of types of bats in South Dakota and parts of the Midwest.

The bat gets its name from its large ears, up to an inch long, and often has tragus fur along the lower edges.

They are pale brown with white tipping on their way and can reach a body length of 4 inches. 

Townsend’s big-eared bats feed primarily on moths but can also consume beetles and other aerial insects.

They are most active between late Spring and early Fall at night, seeking food in woodland areas near water sources.

During the day, they roost in caves, crevices, abandoned buildings, barns, or any available cavities. 

Townsend’s big-eared bats play an important role in controlling local insect populations, helping to provide natural pest control for agricultural settings without the need for chemical pesticides.

10. Northern Long-eared Bat

Northern Long-eared Bat
by USFWS/Southeast is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lastly, The Northern Long-eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis) is a small bat found throughout the eastern and northern parts of the United States and South Dakota.

It prefers coniferous forests with numerous dead tree snags for roosts and feeding.

This bat species is well adapted to cold winters, hibernating in caves, mine tunnels, old buildings, trees, and rarely used wells.

The diet of the Northern Long-eared Bat consists mostly of flying insects such as moths, beetles, and flies.

During non-mating months (spring-fall), they can be found roosting singly or in small groups within cracks and crevices of dead trees.

Females of bats in South Dakota will also form maternity colonies in hollowed-out tree stumps or old tree cavities during mating season. 

In South Dakota, this species may migrate in large numbers to certain areas each year, depending on environmental factors such as food availability.

They have adapted to live amongst humans by utilizing suitable shelters like bridges or buildings with open access points in urban areas, which are important for survival due to the loss of suitable habitat across the region.

Proper protection and conservation efforts must occur if we want these types of bats in South Dakota to remain a part of our state’s bat population for years.


Bats in South Dakota represent a diverse array of species, with 15 species known to exist and inhabit the region.

These bats in South Dakota are found in various habitats ranging from grasslands to shrub-steppe to coniferous forests.

Of these fifteen species, Wildlife biologists believe that four species may be declining for various reasons. 

Commonly observed types of bats in South Dakota vary in their roles in controlling insect populations, the fruit pollination cycle, seed dispersal, and other ecosystem-related duties.

Those interested in helping protect bats from harm should avoid bright lights at night by closing blinds and opting for more subtle light sources.

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