Bats, Brains, Birds and Haunted Stuff at the Wildlife Park in October
During the month of October, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be featuring Florida’s bats. Greatly misunderstood, bats are an important part of the ecosystem, preying upon insects which are agricultural or human pests. While there are more than 1,000 species of bats worldwide, Florida is home to 13 species of bats that are here year-round or are seasonal residents. Special displays will be set up in the park’s Visitor Center on US 19.
Learn About Florida’s Bats
Shari Blissett-Clark, president of the Florida Bat Conservancy, will present her program “Bats In My Florida Backyard” on Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm in the Magnolia Room of the Wildlife Park’s Visitor Center located on US 19. She describes her program as follows: “This program debunks common myths and misconceptions about bats and features species commonly seen in Florida’s urbanized landscape. Backyard bats have adapted to living in close proximity to people and all our trappings: high-rise buildings, automobile and truck traffic, mosquito control, pollutants, trash, and sewerage. Learn the survival tactics these intelligent flying mammals employ while playing important roles in food production, insect control, and human health. There is no charge to attend this program.
Bat Basics 101
Bats are members of a unique group or order called Chiroptera which means “hand wing.” While there are other mammals such as flying squirrels who can glide short distances, bats are the only mammal that can truly fly. According to the Florida Bat Conservancy, bats literally fly with their hands. Their winds being much like our hands with longer fingers and a thin, tough membrane (skin) between the fingers.
We have learned from studying fossil records that bats have existed for more than 65 million years. Seventy-percent of the world’s bats exist on a diet of insects. Most of the thirteen species of bats in Florida are insectivores. Each bat can consume as many as 3,000 insects or the equivalent of their body weight in one night.
The Malayan bat, a fruit-eater, is the largest bat in the world and has a wingspan of six feet. The smallest bat, the Bumblebee bat, is the size of your thumbnail and weighs less than a penny.
Myths, misunderstandings, and misconceptions about bats
People have many myths, misunderstandings and misconceptions about bats. They are not blind and they have the same five senses we do – smell, hearing, taste, sight and feeling. In addition to these shared senses, most bats have highly developed sonar capabilities called echolocation. They navigate by uttering ultrasonic cries that return as echoes off solid objects.
Many people are under the impression that bats attack people and that they get entangled in your hair. That is not true! In fact, they are quite timid and ignore humans as much as possible. There are no vampire bats in the United States – they are only found in southern Mexico, Central and South America.
It is not true that all bats are rabid. Less than one percent of bats contract rabies and when they do, they die within three or four days. The Florida Bat Conservancy recommends that you “never handle or play with any wild animals, including bats. They are wild and are meant to be left alone.”
Sadly, bats are now threatened and are disappearing at alarming rates as a result of disturbance or destruction of their roosting sites. This is the result of development and vandalism. Most Florida bats roost on mature or dead trees or in caves. When they are pushed out of urban areas they may take up residence in buildings where they can become targets of abuse.
How you can help preserve bats
The best way we can help preserve bat populations is by learning more about them and sharing what you learn with others. The construction of bat houses that can be placed in your yard is also beneficial by providing bats with much-needed and safe places to live. In return the bats will eat insects around the area. Plans for building bat houses are available on many websites including the Florida Bat Conservancy’s website.
Wildlife Puppet Play
In other news at the park, the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be presenting a new series of plays titled “Build a Better Brain.” Animal puppets will tell about the Park’s enrichment program and how it benefits the wildlife in our care. The Puppeteers invite you to join them on October 13, 2018 for the performance, held in the Magnolia Room at the Visitor Center on US 19. Admission to the program is free.
Monthly Bird Walk
Experienced birders from Citrus County Audubon Society are scheduling their first bird walk of the fall on Saturday, October 27, 2018. Novice and experienced birders can meet at the park’s Visitor Center located on US 19 at 7:45 am; the walk will begin at 8:00 am. There is no charge to participate, however regular admission applies if entering the Wildlife Park after the walk.
Haunted Tram Rides
The Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park are preparing for another of their popular events, the Haunted Tram Rides. Pepper Creek Trail will be transformed during these evenings into a trail of haunting spooky spots. Tram rides run for two nights on Friday, October 26 and Saturday October 27 beginning at 6:00 pm and running until 10:00 pm.
This is the fourteenth year the Friends will be holding the Haunted Tram Rides event which attracts thousands of visitors each night. In addition to the Haunted Tram Rides, the event includes costume contests, a fun slide, and refreshments. The suggested donation for the tram ride is $5.00 for adults (age 13 and over) and $3.00 for children up to the age of 12. A Haunted House will be set up in the Florida Room with hours as follows: Friday, October 26 and Saturday October 27 from 4:00 pm until 10:00 pm; The donation for admission to the Haunted House is $2.00 per person.