provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife
Bats are one fascinating species of mammal that often go unnoticed. They can be spotted at dusk combing the skies for insect dinner and occasionally seen diving in front of vehicles picking off the bugs attracted to the headlight illumination. Florida benefits from the residency of about 13 different species of bat.
Bats play many important ecological roles, but widespread disease and misconception have threatened their populations. Bats can eat their weight each night in bugs such as moths, flies, beetles, wasps, ants, and mosquitos. Each year, bats contribute an estimated $3.7 billion worth of pest control saving farmers money on insecticides.
As nocturnal pollinators and seed dispersers, many plants rely on bats. They serve as major pollinators for plants that only open at night such as cacti and agave. Some species of bat primarily eat fruit presenting the unique opportunity for widespread seed dispersal since they can travel over 30 miles every night while hunting. Some bats have adaptations like tube noses and long tongues to pollinate certain plants!
Bats also produce one of the most effective fertilizers; their excrement is called guano. Better than cow manure, bat guano provides essential nurtrients. In cave dwellings where bats can number in the millions, their collective excretion of guano supports growth of cave organism communities. Bat guano can be used as a fungicide in your garden and serves as an acceptable compost activator helping to speed up the decomposition process!
Unlike other mammals in Florida who have babies year-round, bats have a specific season dedicated to their young. Maternity season is when bats gather together to give birth and raise their babies. Maternity season begins in the middle of April and ends in the middle of August. In Florida, it is illegal to harm or kill bats which is why guidelines have been carefully developed to ensure bats can be safely and effectively removed from man-made dwellings outside of maternity season.
Terry Doonan, mammal conservation coordinator for the FWC warns, “It is important for homeowners to know the signs that bats might be present in their home, and to know how to prevent them from taking up residence. Remember, bats can enter through very tiny spaces, smaller than your thumb.”
Now is the time to check your homes or man-made structures for bats and make any necessary repairs. If you find any bats, there is still time to exclude them before maternity season begins in April. During maternity season, it is illegal to block bats from the areas they have chosen to roost in since it is likely they have already reproduced. Blocking their return could leave flightless young in a fatal position.
On January 21, a Mexican-free-tailed bat was admitted to CROW after someone had found it in their house, sucked the bat into a shop vacuum, and left it in the vacuum overnight. Upon presentation, the patient was dusty and showed signs of subcutaneous emphysema which is when air gets into tissues under the skin. The bat was treated for the emphysema, but the emphesyma returned the next day and was treated again. Thankfully, the emphysema did not return the next day. The patient started vocalizing and its mobility had improved so the bat was then cleared for release!
The number of bats in our ecosystem has been dwindling for the past few decades. One of the greatest things humans can do for bats is to leave them undisturbed. Preserve natural roost sites such as trees with cavities, peeling bark, and dead palm fronds. If there are no natural roost sites, feel free to include one with the addition of a bat box. If you do find a bat, avoid handling or touching it, like any wild animal; especially if their behavior is inappropriate.
THIS WEEK AT CROW (2/4-2/11):
There were 99 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 14 royal terns, 13 double-crested cormorants, two red-bellied woodpeckers, a great egret, a great horned owl, three brown pelicans, a little blue heron and a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. Recent Releases include a striped skunk, two osprey, an eastern screech owl, and a gopher tortoise. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!
Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year. Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.
About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond. Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to http://www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.