Date of this Version
From 1997 through 2007, 821 bat strikes were reported to the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Safety Center by aircraft personnel or ground crew and sent to the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, for identification. Many samples were identified by macroscopic and or microscopic comparisons with bat specimens housed in the museum and augmented during the last 2 years by DNA analysis. Bat remains from USAF strikes during this period were received at the museum from 40 states in the United States and from 20 countries. We confirmed that 46% of the strikes were caused by bats, but we did not identify them further; we identified 5% only to the family or genus level, and 49% to the species level. Fifty-five of the 101 bat-strike samples submitted for DNA analysis have been identified to the species level. Twenty-five bat species have been recorded striking USAF planes worldwide. The Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis; n = 173) is the species most commonly identified in USAF strike impacts, followed by the red bat (Lasiurus borealis; n = 83). Bat strikes peak during the spring and fall, with >57% occurring from August through October; 82% of the reports that included time of strike were recorded between 2100 and 0900 hours. More than 12% of the bat strikes were reported at >300 m above ground level (AGL). Although <1% of the bat-strike reports indicated damage to USAF aircraft, cumulative damage for 1997 through 2007 totaled >$825,000 and >50% of this sum was attributable to 5 bat-strike incidents. Only 5 bats from the 10 most damaging bat strikes were identified to the species level, either because we did not receive remains with the reports or the sample was insufficient for identification.