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Wildlife Park Reopens: October features Bats

By Susan Strawbridge Posted on September 21, 2017

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, including the Wildlife Walk, has reopened with regular admission.  A section of boardwalk from the from the Alligator bridge to the Otter bridge is temporarily closed to for post-storm maintenance. Another small section of boardwalk from West entrance from bleachers to the Fish Bowl is also closed for maintenance.

October features Bats at the Wildlife Park

During the month of October, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be focusing on helping visitors learn more about Florida’s bats.

Bats are an important part of natural ecosystems. They prey upon insects, some of which are agricultural or human pests (think mosquitoes).

While there are more than 1,000 species of bats worldwide, Florida has 13 species that are here year-round or seasonally visit.

Special displays will be set up in the park’s Visitor Center on US 19 and in the Discovery Center.

Special Program: The Myths and Reality of Bats

Shari Blissett-Clark holding a disabled bat.

Shari Blissett-Clark, board member of the Florida Bat Conservancy will present Bats – Myth and Reality on Thursday, October 26, 2017, at 12:00 pm in the Magnolia Room of the wildlife park’s Visitor Center.

She explains, “This program uses high-resolution photography and research to debunk the folklore, myths, and misconceptions that have plagued bats for centuries. Unfounded fears, often fueled by grossly over-stated disease risk and ignorance, are the major contributors to a dramatic decline in the world-wide bat populations. This program discusses bat facts, species diversity, environmental and economic benefits of bats.”

The program is approximately 50 minutes long and is followed by a question and answer period. Live bats will be displayed after the presentation.

Blissett-Clark is a longtime member of the Florida Bat Conservancy, Bat Conservation International, the Xerces Society, and the Florida Native Plant Society. She currently serves on the Florida Bat Conservancy and Bat Belfrys Board of Directors.

Bat houses help to attract the insect-eating mammals to your yard. Plans can be found online to DIY.

Her education includes wildlife biology and habitat conservation, and she has worked in public and private conservation sectors for decades. In 2010, Blissett-Clark formed Bat Belfrys, a privately funded organization conserving Florida’s bats through public outreach and education. In addition, she and her partner, John, build and install bat houses, with all proceeds directly benefiting bat conservation.

Some Basic Bat Facts

Look how much this bat looks like a flying dog… fuzzy with wings.

The Florida Bat Conservancy notes that 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 wings 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 is 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.

People have many myths, misunderstandings, and misconceptions about bats. They are not blind. Actually, bats have the same five senses we do including 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. This is not true. In fact they are actually 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.

Less than one percent of bats contract rabies and when they do, they die with three or four days.

It is not true that all bats are rabid. Less than one percent of bats contract rabies and when they do, they die with 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 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 because it provides bats with much-needed, 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 Returns Oct. 21

Friends’ Volunteers – The Wildlife Puppeteers who perform monthly in the park, and outside the park in schools, libraries and clubs by appointment. (L to R) Vicky Iozzia, Judy Hemer, Renate Wilms-Rovin and Bruce Mann. Photo by Susan Strawbridge

The Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park will be presenting the first in their new series of Wildlife Puppeteers’ plays on Saturday, October 21, 2017 in the park’s Discovery Center.

The title of the new series of plays is “Night at the Wildlife Park!” Did you see the movie “Night at the Museum”? This play is about an imaginary story of what the wildlife park’s animals do after the park closes. Get ready to party, sing, and dance with the animals. Regular park admission applies.

Monthly Bird Walk Oct. 21

Novice and experienced birders can meet at the flagpole by the Visitor Center entrance located on US 19 at 7:45 am. The bird walk begins at 8:00 am.

Experienced birders from Citrus County Audubon Society are scheduling their first bird walk of the fall and winter season on Sat., Oct. 21, 2017.

Novice and experienced birders can meet at the flagpole by the Visitor Center entrance located on US 19 at 7:45 am. The bird walk begins at 8:00 am. There is no charge to participate. Please call Susan (352) 628-5445, extension 1002 to register.

Haunted Tram Rides Oct. 27-28

Haunted Tram Rides are a fun fundraiser put on by the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. It’s a great event to take the family to. Just enough spooky, and just enough community to show everyone a good time!

Haunted Tram rides run for two nights on Fri., Oct. 27 and Sat., Oct. 28, 2017. Pepper Creek Trail will be transformed during these evenings into a trail of haunting scenarios. The event begins at 6:00 pm, and runs until 10:00 pm.

This is the thirteenth 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 age 12.

A Haunted House will be set up in the Florida Room with hours as follows: Fri., Oct. 27, from; Fri., Oct. 28 and Sat., Oct. 29 from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm. The suggested donation for the Haunted House is $2.00 per person.

We hope you will come to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in October and learn about Florida’s bats. Consider including a trip through the park and enjoy a chance to see and learn about Florida’s native wildlife.