By feeding on nothing but blood and targeting their prey late at night, vampire bats sure seem like creatures from a horror movie. But in real life, they’re probably a lot more afraid of you than you are of them. For one thing, these shy creatures, which live in the southern U.S. and the forests of Central and South America, rarely attack people. And, to the horses, cattle and other livestock they usually feed on, they’re more like pesky mosquitoes than vicious monsters.
A vampire bat bites by using its sharp incisor teeth to make a shallow cut in its victim’s skin. It then laps up the seeping blood as substances in its saliva prevent its liquid meal from clotting. The bite is painless, though, and the loss of blood is small (about 1 cubic cm/0.06 cubic in). In short, vampire bats aren’t as scary or harmful as their name would make you believe. In fact, they’re intelligent creatures and have even been known to adopt orphans and help other bats in need. So please, ditch those visions of “Dracula” the next time you find yourself face-to-face with one at a zoo!