Coast Lines: Holy maternity season, bat mom!

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It’s shorebird nesting season on Anna Maria Island’s beaches, as everyone who doesn’t have their beak buried in the sand probably knows.

But bet you didn’t know that it’s also bat season.

Make that bat maternity season to be precise, and while it seems like it should, it does not start on Halloween. It starts on Wednesday, April 15, when baby bats become a tax deduction for their parents.Florida Press Club

No, the press release from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission did not arrive on April 1, and the FWC really is up on birds, turtles, dolphins, manatees and even horseshoe crabs, so there’s every reason to believe it’s true.

Baby bats are being born beginning today. They are not hatched, because even though they can fly like birds, which lay eggs, they’re mammals. Not as cute as manatees, but still mammals.

We actually do have some bats on the Island, aside from the ones who go to commission meetings and say things like, “Let’s pass an ordinance to make tourists use parasails to get to trolley stops to clear up traffic on Gulf Drive.”

Bats are living at Grassy Point Preserve in Holmes Beach, placed there after being rescued and rehabilitated. The city even put up a bat house for them, similar to the bat houses that spontaneously appear in trees in the Transylvania wilderness.

But if bats decide they like your house better, here’s what you need to know.

Bats can roost in your attic, eaves or chimney – or even in your belfry, if you have one and know what it looks like.

It’s illegal in Florida to harm or kill bats, or to try to persuade them to leave your belfry, etc., after April 15.

But next Aug. 15, when bat season is over, check out www.MyFWC.com/Bats for tips.

Meanwhile, if there’s only one bat in your house, you’re legally allowed to try the following, according to the FWC:

Stay calm, and put down the broom.

Turn on a light (they’re not vampires, after all, unless they’re vampire bats, in which case, like Houston, you have a problem).

Close all the doors in the room, and open a window. They didn’t say this, but they probably mean one that does not have a screen on it.

The bat is likely to fly out, the FWC says, promising that other bats are unlikely to fly in.

In the unlikely event that the bat does not fly out, you can put on a heavy work glove and wait for it to land, then pick it up and take it outside, the FWC says.

Or you can take a large plastic bowl and slowly creep, step by step, up to where the bat is sitting, place the bowl over the bat and slide a copy of The Sun under it, then take it outside.

Helpful hint: It’s best to rummage around for The Sun first, since by the time you find it, the bat will have knocked the plastic bowl off whatever it’s on and will be flying around again (The Sun-and-bowl method is time tested on lizards, but lizards don’t fly. No warranties, express or implied, are expressed or implied).

In the unlikely event that the bat flies back through one of the open windows, repeat the procedure, or learn to like bats.

In the unlikely event that more bats fly in an open window while you are repeating the procedure, the FWC, at 888-404-FWCC (3922), or *FWC or #FWC on a cell phone, does not invite you to call them.

According to the FWC, Florida has 13 native bat species, including threatened and rare species such as the Florida (Easter?) bonneted bat.

These native bats (but apparently not bats visiting from up north), help keep mosquitoes and other insects under control, with the average bat eating hundreds of insects a night, saving billions and billions of dollars in pesticides, and virtually eliminating your need for screens that would prevent bats from flying out of your house.

To attract bats around the outside of your house as nature’s mosquito repellent, don’t chop down trees with cavities in their trunks and don’t trim dead fronds on palm trees, which are bat roosting spots.

You can also put up a bat house. And, since bats don’t wear shoes, and are therefore not allowed on the beach trolley, please also consider putting up a bat garage for their batmobiles.