There are 11 Species of Bats in Wakulla County

Bat photo WN 10-24-13
They are the perfect icon for Halloween.  On the edge between reality and legend, these carnivores silently flutter in the darkness.

Today there are over 1,200 bat species worldwide which are living in a variety of climates and settings.  Wakulla County is home to eleven species, some common and some relatively rare.

The earliest bat fossils date back to the Eocene epoch 52 million years ago.  Bats may have emerged earlier, but the light bone structure required for flight makes their fossilized remains scarce.

Only with the advancements in natural science have these nightly specters gained the appreciation of some for their place in the overall environment.  Still, bats remain poorly understood today by the general population.

The general lack of knowledge about and appreciation for bats has contributed to declines in their numbers. Some of the more common causes of these declines include destruction of habitat, disturbance of roost sites, and the spread of white nose syndrome which disrupts their navigation system.

Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight and are able to execute a variety of maneuvers.  The best other mammals can do is to glide through the air like flying squirrels.

Their scientific name, Chiroptera, is derived from Greek and mean hand-wing. Bats are sometimes misidentified as flying rodents, but any resemblance is coincidental.

The forelimbs of bats have the same configuration as other mammals, but the finger bones of bats are elongated to support membranous wings. The hind limbs are also modified to allow bats to hang head-down and by their toes without expending energy.

Most bats are highly efficient at and uniquely adapted to catch night-flying insects. This trait has made the installation of bat houses a popular addition in some communities.

These nocturnal predators locate their food and navigate in low-light by uttering ultrasonic cries which return as echoes after bouncing off solid objects. The ears, nose and facial shape aid with this echo-location method when flying in the dark.

When bats identify prey, they employ their wings, the wing membrane surrounding their tails, and their mouths to catch insects.  This may be in flight, but their echo-location abilities are so acute to be able to pick the bugs off vegetation.

Although the bats in Wakulla County are exclusively insect eaters, a few of the species which occasionally show up in south Florida feed on fruit, nectar, and pollen. With the exception of a few zoo specimens, the vampire bats which feed on blood all live in South America.

All of Florida’s bats rest during daylight hours, taking shelter in a variety of places such as caves, mines, buildings, bridges, culverts, under tree bark, and in the foliage of plants and trees. Many species congregate in nursery colonies during the spring for the care and feeding of baby bats, and then disperse in July and August.

The crowding of many bats into a nursery colony during spring and summer raises the temperature of the roost to more than 100 degrees. Because young bats have no fur, they need warm and humid conditions to survive.

To learn more about the bats in Wakulla County call 850-926-3931 and remember to “like” us on facebook.

 

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