Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
April 22, 2000 - Issue 08

How the Bat Came to Be
an Ojibwe Legend

Long ago, as the sun began to rise one morning, he came to close too Earth and got tangled up in the top branches of a very tall tree. The harder Sun tried to escape, the more he became caught. So, the dawn did not come.

At first, all of the birds and animals did not notice. Some of them woke up, then went back to sleep, thinking that they had made a mistake, and it was not time to get up. Other animals, who loved the night, like the panther and the owl, were really glad that it stayed dark, so they continued to hunt. But, after a while, so much time had passed that the birds and animals knew that something was wrong. They gathered together, in the dark, to hold a council.

"Sun has gotten lost," said the eagle.

"We must look for him," said the bear.

So, all of the birds and animals went out to look for Sun. They looked in caves and in the deep forest and on the mountains and in the swamps. But, Sun was not there. None of the birds and animals could find him.

Then, one of the animals, a small brown squirrel had an idea.

"Maybe Sun is caught in a tall tree," he said.

Then, the small brown squirrel began to go from tree to tree, going further and further toward the east. At last, in the top of a VERY tall tree, he saw a glow of light. He climbed up and saw that it was Sun. Sun's light was pale and he looked weak.

"Help me, Little Brother," Sun said.

The small brown squirrel came close and began to chew at the branches in which the Sun was caught. The closer he came to Sun, the hotter it got. The more branches that he chewed free, the brighter Sun's light became.

"I must stop now," said the small brown squirrel. "My fur is burning. It's all turning black."

"Help me," said Sun. "Don't stop now."

The small brown squirrel continued to work, but the heat of Sun was very hot now and it was even brighter.

"My tail is burning away," said the small brown squirrel. "I can do no more."

"Help me," said Sun. "Soon I will be free."

So, the small brown squirrel continued to chew. But, the light of Sun was VERY bright now.

"I am growing blind," said the small brown squirrel. "I must stop."

"Just a little more," said Sun. "I am almost free."

Finally, the small brown squirrel chewed the last of the branches free. As soon as he did, Sun broke free and rose up into the sky. Dawn spread across the land and it was day again. All over the world the birds and animals rejoiced.

But, the small brown squirrel was not happy. He was blinded by the brightness of Sun. His long tail had been burned away and what fur he had left was now all black. His skin had stretched from the heat and he clung there to the top branches of that tall tree, unable to move.

Up in the sky, Sun looked down and felt sorry for the small brown squirrel. It had suffered so much to save him.

"Little Brother," Sun said. "You have helped me. Now, I will give you something. Is there anything that you have always wanted?"

"I have always wanted to fly," said the small brown squirrel. "But I am blinded, now and my tail is all burned away."

"Sun smiled. "Little Brother," he said, "from now on you will be an even better flyer than the birds. Because you came to close to me, my light will always be too bright for you, but you will see in the dark and you will hear everything around you as you fly. From this time on, you will sleep when I rise into the sky and when I say goodbye to the world each evening, you will wake."

Then the small animal which had once been a squirrel dropped from the branch, spread its leathery wings and began to fly. He no longer missed his tail and his brown fur and he knew that when night came again, it would be his time. he could not look at Sun, but he held the joy of Sun in his heart.

And so it was, long ago, that Sun showed his thanks to the small brown squirrel who was a squirrel no longer, but the first of the bats.

Print out and color your own picture of the small brown squirrel saving Sun

Saving Sun

Now, reread the story and without peeking, answer these questions:

  • Why do you think the small brown squirrel travels east to look for Sun? Why not travel north, south or west?
  • Why does the small brown squirrel climb the tree and get so close to Sun? Would you have made such a great sacrifice to free Sun from being tangled in the branches of the tall tree?
  • What happens to the small brown squirrel when he gets too close to Sun? How does Sun reward the squirrel for this brave sacrifice?

Bat Word Search
x b w i n g s u h a n g
h g a m i t o e s a u i
f u r t n n c a v e r n
l a g c s o u n d a s g
y n f c e b s i f r e s
s o l a c a t g r o r o
f l y v t a r h u a y n
c a v e s n w t i b a a
o n e c t a r s t r l r

See the answers below:

  • Nearly 1,000 kinds of bats account for almost a quarter of all mammal species and most are highly beneficial.
  • A single little brown bat can catch 600 mosquitoes in just one hour.
  • A colony of 150 big brown bats can protect local farmers from up to 18 million or more rootworms each summer.
  • The 20 million Mexican free-tails from Bracken Cave, Texas, eat 250 tons of insects nightly.
  • Tropical bats are key elements in rain forest ecosystems, which rely on them to pollinate flowers and disperse seeds for countless trees and shrubs.
  • In the wild, important agricultural plants, from bananas, bread-fruit and mangoes to cashew, dates and figs rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal.
  • Tequila is produced from agave plants whose seed production drops to 1/3,000th of normal without bat pollinators.
  • Desert ecosystems rely on nectar-feeding bats as primary pollinators of giant cacti, including the famous organ pipe and saguaro of Arizona.
  • Bat droppings in caves support whole ecosystems of unique organisms, including bacteria useful in detoxifying wastes, improving detergents, and producing gasohol and antibiotics.
  • An anticoagulant from vampire bat saliva may soon be used to treat human heart patients.
  • Contrary to popular misconceptions, bats are not blind, do not become entangled in human hair, and seldom transmit disease to other animals or humans.
  • All mammals can contract rabies; however, even the less than half of 1% of bats that do, normally bite only in self-defense and pose little threat to people who do not handle them.
  • Bats are exceptionally vulnerable to extinction, in part because they are the slowest reproducing mammals on earth for their size. Most produce only one young a year.
  • Nearly 40% of American bat species are in severe decline or already listed as endangered. Losses are occurring at alarming rates worldwide.

  • The world's smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat of Thailand which weighs less than a penny.
  • Giant flying foxes that live in Indonesia have wingspans of nearly six feet.
  • The common little brown bat of North America is the world's longest-lived mammal for its size with life spans exceeding 32 years.
  • Mexican free-tailed bats sometimes fly up to two miles high to feed or to catch tailwinds that carry them over long distances at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.
  • The pallid bat of western North America is immune to the stings of scorpions and even the seven-inch centipedes upon which it feeds.
  • Fishing bats have echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a minnow's fin as fine as a human hair protruding only two millimeters above a pond's surface.
  • African heart-nosed bats can hear the footsteps of a beetle walking on sand from a distance of more than six feet.
  • Red bats, which live in tree foliage throughout most of North America, can withstand body temperatures as low as 23 degrees during winter hibernation.
  • Tiny woolly bats of West Africa live in the large webs of colonial spiders.
  • The Honduran white bat is snow white with a yellow nose and ears. It cuts large leaves to make "tents" that protect its small colonies from jungle rains.
  • Frog eating bats identify edible from poisonous frogs by listening to the mating calls of male frogs. Frogs counter by hiding and using short, difficult-to-locate calls.
  • Vampire bats adopt orphans and have been known to risk their lives to share food with less fortunate roost-mates.
  • Male epauleted bats have pouches in their shoulders that contain large, showy patches of white fur, which they flash during courtship to attract mates.
  • Mother Mexican free-tailed bats find and nurse their own young, even in huge colonies where many millions of babies cluster at up to 500 per square foot.

Fast Facts

Common Name:


Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera (hand wing)
Family: 18 families in 2 suborders Megachiroptera, Microchiroptera
Genus species: 180 genera, 900 species
Wingspan: Largest- flying foxes 2 meters (78.74 in.); Smallest- bumblebee bat 16 cm (6.24 in.)
Weight: 14g to 1.5 kg (0.5 oz. - 3.3 lb.)
Life span: 4 to 30 years depending on the species
Sexual maturity: Unknown for most species; those known range from 6 months to 2 years
Gestation: 1.5 to 9 months depending on the species
Habitat: Rain forests of South America, Africa, Southeast Asia to hot arid deserts of Sahara, Middle East and Southwest United States. All continents except for Antarctica
Diet: Fruits, flowers, leaves, insects, frogs, fish, small mammals, reptiles, blood of vertebrates
Status: Some species endangered; some CITES I or II; some not listed. In the United States nearly 40% of our bat species are listed by USFWS as endangered species or are candidates for it.

Fun Facts
  • Bats are the only flying mammals and comprise the second largest order of mammals in the world.
  • A bat's grasp is strong enough to hold its entire body weight while its body hangs upside down.
  • Along with whales, dolphins, and some shrew species many bats use echolocation (sonar dependent on pulse sounds and echoes) to identify and track prey.
  • Just one insectivorous bat can eat 600 or more mosquitoes in a single hour.

Ecology and Conservation
Fruit and nectar-eating bats are among the most important seed dispersers and pollinators of tropical rain forest trees and plants. Many economically important crops such as bananas, avocados, vanilla, and peaches are dependent upon bats for pollination. Bats are valuable subjects for scientific and medical studies. Insectivorous bats are essential in controlling mosquito populations. Bat guano is a rich source of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) which is used in the production of gun powder and explosives and is an excellent fertilizer.

Meet "Robin" the bat that came to visit us!!!

Word Search Answers:





















Thematic Unit on Bats

Bat Conservation International

Make your own bat house!!!
Criteria for Successful Bat Houses

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