One evening last month, I was standing with my family on a landing looking out over Cayuga Lake, in Ithaca, New York, when we heard a loud thud. Just a few feet from where we standing, some animal, still living, had fallen on the hard concrete surface.
It looked like a bat—at least, we could see a pair of bat wings. But, whatever it was, it looked grosser and much creepier than just a bat. As we approached, with caution, we could see two small, furry bodies…but no heads.
One of the bodies was pulsating and twitching. We couldn’t tell what was happening, but it looked like one of them might be eating the other.
Here’s a video of part of what we saw:
As you can hear in the video, we were a little freaked out — the weirdest thing was that we couldn’t figure out where either of the animals’ heads were. Had a rabid bat attacked another? Had another unfortunate creature (a frog? a tiny weasel?) tried to eat the bat, only to be flown to this distant dock? Could the bat have gotten itself into this situation, to its immediate regret?
When I asked bat experts to look at this video, though, a consensus emerged.
These were two bats, having sex.
What we had encountered were two Eastern red bats in mating season. The male, the redder bat, is on his back — that’s his tail curled up over the female, who is grayer. According to the bat experts I consulted, bats can be so focused on mating that they fall out of the sky. The male can also grab onto his partner so fiercely that he will leave bald patches on her neck.
The lesson of this story? If anything, it’s that sex can look pretty creepy—especially if it’s not your species.