April 15 is right around the corner, so it’s time to get your house in order if you want to keep it. If you delay too long, they will take it over and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I’m not talking about tax time deadlines, although you will want to pay attention to that nonsense also. My family made one tiny mistake a few years ago and discovered that the IRS has no sense of humor or irony whatsoever. Our bank didn’t send us a statement until August in 2017, reporting a whopping $200 in interest income. The tax deadline is April! By the time the IRS investigated it, they wanted to charge us $20,000 in fines and interest. For a fraction of that amount, we hired a CPA who got the fine knocked down to a reasonable fee and is now our new best friend.
But I digress. April 15 is the start of bat maternity season. Yes, such a thing does exist, even though it’s hard to find a Hallmark card commemorating the occasion. April 15 to August 15 is bat mating season and it is illegal to disrupt them during this time. If you find a bat in your attic or eaves then, you must leave them alone until the babies are able to fly and feed themselves.
We have 13 species of native bats in Florida, all of which are insectivores. They provide a great service to us by eating hundreds of mosquitoes and other agricultural and garden pests each night. Some bats roost in dead trees, dead palm fronds, and Spanish moss. These natural features make wonderful habitat for many other wild animals too, like woodpeckers, screech owls, squirrels, and countless other species.
If you must trim or remove these trees, please be sure to check that there aren’t residents in there before you start hacking and slashing. Or better yet, leave them there to provide wild animals a safe and appropriate home.
Other bat species can be drawn to bat houses. Check online sources to purchase or build the houses and install them properly if you want to encourage bats to live on your property — a great natural way to cut down on those pesky mosquitoes.
There are some bats that will roost in your attic and eaves if they can find a way in and now is the time to exclude them if you don’t want them there. If you wait until they have babies, you must continue to wait until the babies head off to college to do anything about it. Don’t worry, though; these youngsters aren’t slow learners like our kids. Bat babies will usually be able to fly and feed themselves in three to six months.
Florida Bat Conservancy is an excellent online resource for great information about excluding bats from your home (http://bit.ly/2IS2hKt) as well as anything else you might want to know about these fascinating creatures.
Peace River Wildlife Center admits a few bats each year. We sometimes get babies that have been separated from their mothers. These tykes are raised and released to their home territories as quickly as possible, but it is a time-consuming feat and humans are definitely not the best parental substitute for any wild orphan.
Often, we see adult bats that have gotten themselves into a jam. They can follow a flying insect into a building, intent on a tasty meal, and then find themselves unable to get back outside. Cold snaps can render the little guys unable to move and dehydration can set in quickly.
We also get seemingly healthy bats that have been found on the ground. Bats can’t take off from the ground. They must drop from an elevation to start flying. If you find a bat on the ground and don’t see any obvious signs of injury, follow these guidelines carefully to help it. Only pick up the bat with thick leather gardening gloves or a towel. Place it next to a tree as high up as you can reach. A healthy bat will scurry up the tree quite quickly.
Never use your bare hands. Never allow a child to touch a bat. Bats are a rabies vector species, and while it is uncommon for them to have that disease, it is always a concern. Rabies is uncurable and untreatable once it has been acquired. Anytime a bat has been touched by a person, it must be tested — which entails killing the bat. Treatment for the person that handled the bat is a series of injections to lessen the chance of infection. You can’t wait until you have been diagnosed. By then, it’s too late.
This is not an attempt to frighten anyone or cause widespread panic about bats in our midst. It’s just a warning about the seriousness with which this particular disease is regarded. Most bats don’t have rabies. We haven’t had any rabies cases in any species in Charlotte County since 2017.
So, don’t panic — no need to stockpile toilet paper or anything. Treat bats with the same respect you should treat all wildlife, and you and the animals will be better for it. But if you do run out of bathroom tissue, I happen to have a couple reams of notifications from the IRS that I am willing to sell for a reasonable price. It may not be the softest wipe around, but there is a certain irony in using it for that purpose.
Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. They are open seven days a week year-round, including holidays. Tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.