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The Hoary Bat is the largest bat in Canada. The fur on its back is long and soft. Its grey-brown hairs are tinged with white, giving this bat a frosted “hoary” appearance. The Hoary Bat has yellow fur on the throat, around the ears, and on the underside of the wing. It has a furry tail membrane and short, rounded ears. Hoary Bats are rarely seen, but their distinctive echolocation calls are easily recorded on bat detectors and can sometimes even be heard by the human ear.

Weight: 16 to 38 g (0.6 to 1.3 oz), Wingspan: 34 to 41 cm (13 to 16 in).

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There are eight bat species in the NWT - seven confirmed and one suspected. Check out the Bats of the Northwest Territories poster with activities and brochure

Hoary Bats are insect-eating migratory bats found across North America in the summer, including the NWT. They are fast fliers and migrate hundreds of kilometres every year to spend the winter in coastal areas of the United States and Mexico. 

Hoary Bats are the most broadly distributed bat species in the Americas, occurring from Alaska to Argentina, from Hawaii to Bermuda, and even sometimes in Iceland.

Range map information

Hoary Bats roost on tree branches among the needles and leaves. A roosting Hoary Bat looks a lot like a dry leaf on a branch, which provides excellent camouflage. Roosts are usually on large, mature coniferous or deciduous trees near the edge of a clearing. 

Because their roosts are more exposed than other bat species, female Hoary Bats forage for shorter times and stay with their young pups for longer periods to keep them warm. In summer, Hoary Bats usually roost alone or with their pups. However, they often form groups to migrate. 

Hoary Bats hunt for food high off the ground (7-15 meters), at or above treetop level, catching insects in the air. They eat moths, beetles, dragonflies, water bugs, and other large insects. Hoary Bats are attracted to insect swarms at lights outside of buildings. However, they are rarely found inside buildings.

Every year, many Hoary Bats are killed in collisions with wind turbines during their migration. The Hoary Bat is one of three migratory tree-roosting bat species whose Canadian population has declined dramatically in recent years; the others are the Eastern Red Bat and Silver-haired Bat

Collisions with wind turbines kill many Hoary Bats, especially when turbines are built along migration routes or near other key bat habitat. 

Other threats include widespread declines in insect populations; loss of forest habitat (especially large mature trees); and environmental pollution such as mercury, pesticides, industrial pollutants and wildfire smoke.

White-nose syndrome is probably not a major threat to migratory bat species.

In 2023, COSEWIC assessed Hoary Bat as Endangered in Canada because of dramatic population declines in recent years. An NWT Bats Management Plan is available here.

Dehcho North Slave / Tłı̨chǫ South Slave