Whether it’s the rare bonneted bats resting in Miami or the Brazilian free-tailed bats roaming Gainesville, the Sunshine State is a sanctuary for the flying mammals.
The University of Florida’s bat houses might be home to the most famous colony across the state.
The original colony of 5,000 bats was discovered in 1987 after a fire destroyed Johnson Hall. The displaced bats began taking up residence all around the campus, which was a major problem.
“They didn’t like being able to smell them or hear them, or being close to them when they emerged in the evening. And obviously, they didn’t like having the guano dropping to the ground,” Paul Ramey, assistant director of marketing and public relations for the Florida Museum of Natural History, explained to USA Today.
As a response to the bat problem, the very first bat house was constructed in 1991. A total of 3,000 bats were captured and relocated to their new home.
With the population exploding, two bat barns were built – one in 2010 and another as recently as 2017. It’s estimated that the population has grown to over 300,000 bats.
That insane number of bats is why spectators flock to Gainesville to watch the nightly feeding frenzy on warm summer nights. Over the course of the night, the bats consume nearly two tons of insects.
“They play an important role for us by saving the agriculture industry billions of dollars annually in reduced pesticide costs,” Ramey said.
Down in Miami, the Patch of Heaven Sanctuary has been doing its part to protect the trumpet-eared bonneted bat – one of the most endangered mammals on the planet.
“They need help too because they’re creatures of nature and they have far less habitat with each year that goes by because they keep on cutting trees down left and right,” Bruce Chesney, founder of the Patch of Heaven Sanctuary, told Fox News.
Patch of Heaven Sanctuary is a nonprofit nature preserve located in South Florida’s Redlands. The organization, in collaboration with Miami Bat Squad, claims to have built the largest bat house in the Sunshine State.
The sanctuary built the two-tier house than can fit up to 250,000 bats because of the rapid development encroaching on the natural habitat of the bats.
“All of South Florida is developing so fast, so for this kind of species the city is the only thing they have,” tropical bat expert Melquisedec Gamba-Rios told the Miami Herald. “So that’s why it’s so important to understand how they’re adapting.”
Gamba-Rios started a three-year research project at Zoo Miami that will focus on a rescue plan for the displaced bats.
While the massive South Florida structure was built with the intention to lure bats in, Tampa has been trying to lure them away.
The city built a 4,000-capacity bat box away from Riverwalk that was painted by artist Lynn Manos Page.
But it doesn’t seem the bats have made the move to the waterfront property just yet.
“It was probably unrealistic to think they’d move in last year,” Robin Nigh, manager of art programs for Tampa, told the Tampa Bay Time.
Considering bats are the most common mammal in Florida, more and more bat houses could be cropping up in a neighborhood near you.
Mike has more than 30 years of experience in marketing and public relations. He once owned his own agency and has worked with some of the largest brands in the world.