Bat maternity season is almost here, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding the public to check their homes and other structures for bats and seal potential entry points. Are there cracks in your chimney or holes in your siding? Bats and other small mammals can fit into these small spaces, and now is the best time to inspect your home!
Maternity season is the time during which bats gather to give birth and raise their young. Removal of bat colonies must be completed before the season starts on April 15. Bat exclusions are illegal during the maternity season, which runs through August 15. That protects young bats that are not yet able to fly, and it prevents bigger problems for homeowners.
“Maternity season is a critical time for bats,” said Terry Doonan, an FWC biologist and mammal conservation coordinator. “If they are excluded from a place where they are roosting during this time, their flightless young can become trapped inside and die.”
Florida is home to 13 resident bat species, including threatened species such as the Florida bonneted bat. Some bat species roost in artificial structures, including houses and other buildings. It is illegal to harm or kill bats in Florida, so guidelines have been developed to ensure bats are removed safely and effectively outside of the maternity season.
Exclusion guidelines on how to remove bats from buildings can be found at MyFWC.com/Bats. Materials and methods used to exclude bats can affect the success of that process. For more information on how to conduct a bat exclusion, watch this YouTube video: How to Get Bats Out of a Building. Further details on how to conduct a legal bat exclusion can be found at Bat Conservation International.
Bats are beneficial to people and are an important part of the ecosystem. Florida’s native bats help keep insect populations under control, with the average bat eating hundreds of insects a night. In addition to the benefit of keeping mosquitoes and other insects at bay for residents enjoying the outdoors, the value of insect suppression by bats to U.S. agriculture has been estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
There are several ways that Florida residents and visitors can help bats:
- Preserve natural roost sites, including trees with cavities and peeling bark. Dead fronds left on palms can also provide roosting spots for bats.
- Put up a bat house.
- Report unusual bat behavior, or sick or dead bats to: MyFWC.com/BatMortality.
Avoid handling or touching bats, or any wild animals, especially if they are not acting normally. Bats, like any other wild animals, may bite to defend themselves if handled, and they can carry rabies. For more information about rabies, visit the Florida Department of Health website at FloridaHealth.gov.
If you have questions or need assistance, contact your closest FWC Regional Office to speak with a regional wildlife assistance biologist for more information.