Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Giant Bat Found In Collier Forest

Rare Bat In Picayune State Forest

Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently concluded the first-ever bat monitoring program in Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County. During the course of their research, biologists came across a rare find: the state-endangered bonneted bat residing in the forest, which is co-managed by the Division of Forestry and the FWC.

Florida is home to 13 native bat species. With a wingspan of 19-21 inches, the bonneted bat is Florida's largest bat. The bat roosts in South Florida and gets its name from its large, broad ears that slant forward over its eyes.

"The find of the bonneted bat is significant because there are only a few hundred bonneted bats in existence,'' said FWC biologist and project leader Kathleen Smith. "Bats, like many other wildlife species, have lost a great deal of natural habitat to development.''

From August 2009 to May 2010, using acoustical monitoring, mist-netting, and roost surveys, FWC biologists caught 168 bats and captured six of the seven species thought to reside in Picayune. Mist-netting – a process where nets are suspended in the air between poles to capture flying animals – resumes again in the fall, but the recordings of bat activity levels will continue year-round.

FWC biologists are collecting data on species diversity to provide recommendations for optimal land management of Picayune. The state forest is currently being restored as part of the Everglades restoration project that will reinstate freshwater sheet flow into Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

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