This Critically Endangered Bat is Only Found in Florida, and Scientists Have Identified Ways Floridians Can Help Save It

L. Cane

Although there are more than 1,300 species of bats around the world, there are only around 13 species of bats in Florida. And one of those - the Florida bonneted bat - has been called "one of the most critically endangered mammal species in North America" by the Tropical Audubon Society.

There are thought to be fewer than 1,000 of these bats still in existence - in part due to their small habitat range, destruction of their habitat, and potentially, the use of pesticides that affects their prey, (which consists of flying insects.)

Why are Bonneted Bats Important to the Florida Ecosystem?: Bats act as a natural pesticide, eating millions of mosquitos and other bugs. They also have the important job of pollinating plants.

Where Can One Find the Bonneted Bats in Florida?: Part of the reason the bats are so endangered is that their habitat is very small, and much of it is in urban areas.

The bonneted bats been found in bat boxes set out specifically for them, in abandoned red-cockaded woodpecker cavities (that are now in decline,) and in eaves of tiled roofs. They've been documented in tree cavities at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve, Babcock Webb Wildlife Management Area, the Avon Park Air Force Range, and urban Miami-Dade County. The bats are thought to only give birth once per breeding season, which also contributes to their low numbers.

Although many sightings have been in south Florida, the bonneted bats are thought to inhabit areas in Miami - Dade, Monroe, Broward, Collier, Hendry, Lee, Glades, Charlotte, Okeechobee, Highlands, Desoto, Sarasota, Osceola, and Polk counties.

How Floridians Can Help the Bonneted Bats: According to Zoo Miami, placing certain plants in your yard is like providing bat food. The plants feed the insects on which the bats rely. These plants include Chapman's goldenrod, coastal plain willow, Florida fiddlewood, giant goldenrod, narrow-leaved goldenrod, pineland passionflower, rice button aster, shiny blueberry, sunflowers, Virginia live oak, and white flower passionflower.

The Zoo also suggests that Floridians consider installing a bat house. The house should be placed higher than ten feet with no obstructions and no access to predators. The Zoo recommends installing on a pivot poll for easy maintenance. Another suggestion is installing a bat house on the side of a building under the eves. These options provide a refuge for bats that might otherwise have few options for roosting.

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