Bats Can Swim? Oh, Yes They Can!

A screenshot of a fruit bat swimming in India. (Photo: Aditya Mitra/YouTube)

Just like the surprising truth that bats can see as well as or better than humans, it turns out they're pretty decent at swimming, too.

A video captured in India in 2014 shows off this remarkable feat, with what appears to be a giant fruit bat pulling off an impressive mix of a breast/butterfly stroke.

And here's another one attempting to swim away in a pool.

The latter video also reveals a growing problem for bats, which can become submerged after attempting to snag a quick drink mid-flight. Whereas in the wild, they might just swim to shore, the steep sides of pools can present a deadly obstacle. (This particular bat does just fine, you'll be happy to know.)

"They're pretty good swimmers; they all swim like little rowboats," Dan Taylor of Bat Conservation International told Inside Science. "In natural ponds, they'd swim to the side and crawl out, find a tree and take off from there. But the walls of swimming pools can make it impossible for bats to climb out."

A 2013 survey by Indiana State researchers found that 78 percent of the nearly 400 respondents reported seeing bats near their pools, with 13 percent reporting drowned bats. You can see video of bats stealing some sips from a pool in the video below.

"Bats drink water in-flight, so they come down, take a drink and fly out all in one motion," said Zachary Nickerson, a student at the Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation at Indiana State University. "They can't land and drink and take off again. So if there's an obstruction in the way or the pool is too small or something goes wrong, they can get trapped in the pool and die."

As to what you can do to help these unusually good swimmers in times of distress, it's recommended that pool owners install a small ramp — similar to the kind used to help frogs and other creatures escape pools — to help the bats safely extract themselves.

And remember, if you see a bat swimming in your pool, don't attempt to handle it yourself. Use a skimmer or some other tool to safely move the animal to a safe spot. If you absolutely need to pick up a bat, make sure you're wearing thick gloves to prevent bites.

"Once they [the bats] figure out you’re not going to eat them, they relax a little bit," Gabe Reyes, a bat biologist, told the Parks Conservancy.