I am often asked what is the biggest problem for bats, or why are bats disappearing. My answer is people, but not for the reasons you might think. While most of Florida's wildlife has problems with loss and fragmentation of habitat and changes that affect the delicate balance of ecosystems, most bat species are not as affected by these problems. Many bat species are happy moving right in with us. They roost in our tile roofs, our bridges and interstate overpasses, the eaves and attics of our homes, condominium developments, schools and other man made structures. Often people expect to find bats in abandoned, dilapidated buildings, but they are just as likely to be under the tile roof of a million dollar home in a golf course development. We have noticed that bats do like to live near and forage over golf courses!
Besides living among us, colonial species also like to live together, often forming large colonies of hundreds or thousands of bats in a single building. A colony like this may provide insect control for a large area, but their practice of roosting together makes them vulnerable. The entire colony could be destroyed in a single act.
The problems occur when people attempt to get rid of the bats. Well meaning people often give or receive incorrect advice on how to evict a colony of bats. This can result in an entire colony or their pups being sealed inside a building. So many times I have had people tell me, We used to have bats, but when the bats left at night we just plugged the hole. They were sure they were doing the right thing. But, not every bat leaves the roost at night. Temperature, insect availability and other factors determine whether bats leave, and when they return. Some species may forage for an hour or so during the evening peak of insect activity, then return to the roost and forage again in the early morning before sunrise (another peak of insect activity). Sealing a hole during the night will most likely cause some, if not many, bats to be trapped inside.
Even worse, many homeowners, pest control companies and nuisance wildlife trappers are not aware of the baby bat season. During this time the mothers leave the roost to hunt for insects while the young remain inside. Sealing up a bat roost at this time will likely cause all of the babies to die of starvation. And remember, most female bats just have only one pup per year. When a large number of bats are killed it can take a long time to rebuild bat populations. This slow reproduction rate makes bat species especially vulnerable to extinction.
So please help! If you hear of someone who has a colony of bats roosting in their home and is planning to evict them, please put them in contact with us. We can explain the process for performing a proper bat exclusion and the times of the year when baby bats are present. We can also refer them to companies that perform bat exclusions using the proper methods. Simply correcting this misinformation will help save many bats! - Cyndi Marks, Executive Director