Q: I have heard bats can carry rabies. Is this true?
Q: I have heard bats can carry rabies. Why would anyone want to have a bat house near their home if this is true?
A: While it is true, bats have the capacity to carry rabies, like many other mammals, the possibility of a bat having rabies is small. Common carriers of rabies are raccoon, skunk, fox, opossum, otter, bobcat and panther. If you find one hurt or on the ground during the day, it is most likely sick and you should leave it alone. If you want to take it to your veterinarian, then be sure to wear heavy leather gloves to avoid a potential bite.
Most bats are highly and uniquely adapted to catch night-flying insects. Nocturnal bats locate their food and navigate by uttering ultrasonic cries that return as echoes off solid objects. The large ears and oddly shaped nose and facial configurations of some bats assist in detecting these echoes. This form of navigation is termed “echolocation.” This technique is also used by dolphins to detect prey and navigate in conditions of low visibility. Once bats detect prey, they use their wings, the wing membrane surrounding their tails, and their mouths to catch insects in flight or to pick them off vegetation. Although most bats are insect eaters, some bats specialize in eating other items such as fruit, nectar, and pollen, vertebrates, and even blood. All bats resident in Florida eat insects, but a few of the species that occasionally show up in south Florida feed on fruit, nectar, and pollen.
Please note it is important not to pet, touch or capture wild animals without proper training and permits from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. For more complete information on bats in Florida look over the University of Florida publication: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw203