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WHY SAVE BATS?


Bats  are clean, gentle and intelligent, they are vital to the ecosystem, and they enhance our lives in many ways. Fruit and nectar bats bring us approximately 450 commercial products and over 80 different medicines through seed dispersal and pollination. Up to 98% of all rainforest regrowth comes from seeds that have been spread by fruit bats. Insect-eating bats are literal vacuum cleaners of the night skies, eating millions upon millions of harmful bugs. They protect us by eating insect-pests that destroy crops as well as insects that cause human disease.

. Wrinkled-lipped bats  -  prefers to gather in large colonies of many thousands clustered together on the ceiling of the cave. In the early afternoon this huge colony of nearly 3 million bats fly around preparing to leave the cave.

As they leave the cave they gather at the entrance and form a large circle until there are several thousand circling together, then the circle breaks and a long ribbon shaped stream of bats fly off to begin hunting for insects.

Unlike the Wrinkled-lipped bat Horseshoe bats prefers to spend their time alone or in very small groups. Many hours are spent grooming, scratching and stretching their wings. It appears that insects found while scratching don’t go to waste – they quickly become a mini snack!
Wrinkled-lipped bats - prefers to gather in large colonies of many thousands clustered together on the ceiling of the cave. In the early afternoon this huge colony of nearly 3 million bats fly around preparing to leave the cave. As they leave the cave they gather at the entrance and form a large circle until there are several thousand circling together, then the circle breaks and a long ribbon shaped stream of bats fly off to begin hunting for insects.

See thousands of bats emerging from the Bat House and Bat Barn recorded with a camera outside the structures.

Rabies and precautions

Bats are wild mammals and do carry rabies, however rabies only occurs in about .5 percent (1 in 200) of the bats in a population. For comparison, rabies in wild raccoons can occur at up to 35 percent (1 in 3.)

Unlike other mammals, rabid bats do not show aggression, but are more likely to be found on the ground, sluggish and easy for children to pick up. Children must be warned to NEVER touch any bat, because bats found on the ground are much more likely to be rabies-positive and may bite in self-defense. Instead, have an adult notify a trained professional with protective gear and pre-exposure rabies vaccinations to handle or remove bats. If a bat must be removed by an untrained adult, use a coffee can with a piece of stiff cardboard. Place the can over the bat and gently slide the cardboard under the can, trapping the bat inside without touching it, or use heavy leather gloves.


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About the bats that live here

Bats belong to the order of mammals known as Chiroptera (hand-wing.) All North American bats are in the suborder Microchiroptera (microbats), with wingspans of 8 to 10 inches. These bats are much smaller than members of Megachiroptera (megabats), which have wing spans up to 6 feet, such as fruit bats and flying foxes found in Indonesia and other parts of the Old World.

The Brazilian free-tailed bat is in the family Molossidae, from the Greek molossus, or "mastiff," named for its dog-like appearance. These bats are called "free-tailed" because their tail extends beyond the edge of the tail membrane. Most other bats in Florida, including the Southeastern bat, are in the family Vespertilionidae with the tail membrane extending to the tip of the tail.

The subspecies found in Florida and the Southeast is Tadarida brasiliensis cynocephala. The Latin term cynocephala is translated as dog-headed. Although related to the Mexican free-tailed bat, famous for the millions that live in Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, the southeastern species differs in two ways: it does not migrate and isn't usually found in caves.



The free-tailed bat in Florida commonly roosts under the tiles of Spanish tile roofs, inside concrete block walls, in attics and in the expansion joints of concrete structures such as bridges and stadiums.

The Brazilian free-tailed bat occurs statewide and is one of the most abundant native mammals living in Florida's urban areas. The bats form colonies (from as few as 50 to many thousands) in man-made structures like buildings and under bridges. Free-tails are a medium-sized bat (7-14 grams) with brownish-gray fur, and have a distinctively musky odor. It is often possible to smell a colony of free-tails downwind from half a block away. Free-tailed bats are strong fliers with narrow wings, and can fly independently at more than 25 mph. The bats forage as far as 25 to 30 miles from their home at night and return each morning before dawn. Free-tails have been found at altitudes up to 9,000 feet, traveling at speeds up to 60 mph in strong tail winds.

Free-tails mate from mid-February through late March. After an 11-12 week gestation period, the female gives birth to a single pup in late May or early June, depending on Spring temperatures. The pups stay in the roost, huddling together for warmth, while their mothers go out to feed. The young start flying at about 5 weeks of age, and fly with their mothers for several weeks before venturing out on their own.

Southeastern bats share the Bat House with the free-tails. The Southeastern Mouse-Eared Bat, Myotis austrioparius, is a small bat (6-10 grams) with woolly-brown fur. The scientific name means "mouse-eared bat of southern streams." This bat primarily winters and has its maternity colonies in caves, but will also roost in storm drains, bridges, buildings and bat houses. These bats are unusual in that they typically have twins rather than a single pup, giving birth in early May. The Southeastern Bat has broad wings for slow acrobatic flight. These are the bats seen flying over the fields before the masses of free-tails emerge.


Echolocation

Bats utilize a sophisticated ultrasonic system of navigation and finding prey known as echolocation. By emitting high-pitched sounds (inaudible to human ears) from their mouths and monitoring the bounced sound waves with super-sensitive ears, they locate and eat flying insects at the rate of up to 1,000 per hour while navigating through woods, around buildings and people, and avoiding collisions. Bats also emit a wide range of sounds audible to humans known as "colony chatter," a sophisticated form of communication between members.


The environmental importance of bats

Bats are the primary predator of night-flying insects in the world. Their contribution to natural, biological pest control is tremendous. Outside the United States, bats are valuable in pollination and seed dispersal for many fruit trees. Bat manure, or guano, is a superior organic fertilizer containing many valuable micronutrients and naturally occurring soil microbes that aid in plant nutrition.


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