Florida’s Little-Known Species: Florida Bonneted Bat
Bats are highly beneficial; they save U. S. farmers billions of dollars in reduced crop damage and lower insecticide use. Florida happens to be home to the largest and rarest bat insect-eating bat in North America, the Florida Bonneted Bat.
The bonneted bat is believed to have evolved from a species of Cuban bat that found its way to south Florida. Its body can reach 6.5 inches with a wingspan of up to 20 inches. Fur color varies from black to brown to grayish or cinnamon brown. Its large, rounded ears give it the appearance of wearing a bonnet, hence the name. And another very cool thing: the Florida bonneted bat is the only bat in North America that catches insects using sonar that we can hear (most bats use ultrasonic signals).
Little is known yet about the bat’s biology and habitat requirements. Fewer than ten roosting sites are known, from the tile roofs of Miami mansions to woodpecker holes in pines and cypress trees. The largest known populations are on the Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area near Punta Gorda.
A high flyer not easily caught for study, Florida bonneted bats have been found foraging in Miami’s endangered pine rocklands, nearby mangroves, the Everglades’ pine flatwoods and wet prairies, as well as over houses and golf courses. In nature they’ve been known to favor abandoned cavities created by equally imperiled red-cockaded woodpeckers.
FWC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Florida, Bat Conservation International, Zoo Miami and our Foundation are working together to study this elusive bat to understand and safeguard its critical habitats. Its small number of roosts makes the entire population unusually susceptible to hurricanes and fire. Pesticide use may also be affecting the bat by diminishing its food source.
A federal species recovery plan for the Florida bonneted bat is being written now. You can find out more by checking out FWC’s plan here http://myfwc.com/media/2738262/Florida-Bonneted-Bat-Species-Action-Plan-Final-Draft.pdf and Zoo Miami’s profile on the bonneted bat at http://www.zoomiami.org/floridabonneted-bat.
You can also donate to the Foundation’s Florida bonneted bat fund here.