If you were one of the world’s rarest and most endangered bats, where would you choose to live? Perhaps in a remote forest or woodland?
Nah, if you’re a Florida bonneted bat, you’re going to Miami. And just like thousands of snowbirds that flock to the city on Biscayne Bay, you like to hang out at the golf course.
There are only an estimated 500 of the bonneted bats left—no one knows for sure how many—and they are scattered around six South Florida counties. The small and high-flying bat has long eluded biologists attempts to capture them, or even discover where they roost. Then one evening recently, Kirsten Bohn, a Florida International University bat biologist, was standing on her balcony in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables when she heard the distinctive call of Eumops floridanus. She used a high-speed recorder to capture the bats’ sound and make a positive indentification of the species.
It’s not the first time the bats have come to come to the big city. An injured and pregnant female bat, for instance, was found in Coral Gables in 1988, according the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which listed the Florida bonneted bat as endangered last year.
“One individual recently reported that a single Florida bonneted bat had come down the chimney and into his residence in Coral Gables in the fall about five years ago,” the FWS stated in its decision listing the bat. Over the years, people had occasionally recorded the bats flying near two Coral Gables golf courses but never found where they roosted.
“This is the same location they were recorded years ago but no one knew if they were still there until I moved here and started hearing them in my backyard,” Bohn said in an email on Tuesday.
The biologist started organizing a brigade of citizen scientists to fan out through Miami as the sun sets to search for the bonneted bat and listen for its call. Members of the Miami Bat Squad—yes, they have a Facebook page—can download bat sounds on their iPhone to help identify the critters.
“As of yet, we haven’t located a roost site but we have added multiple new locations, never known before, where they have been observed around Miami,” said Bohn “In fact, tonight volunteers are meeting at a location that may have a roost site to help observe at dusk where bats come out.”
When listing the bug-eating bat as endangered, the FWS cited habitat loss from human development as the greatest threat to the animal. Climate change also poses a growing danger to the bonneted bat, according to the agency’s biologists.
“The effects resulting from climate change, including sea-level rise and coastal squeeze, are expected to become severe in the future and result in additional habitat losses, including the loss of roost sites and foraging habitat,” the biologists wrote in the listing decision.
The FWS conceded that not much is known about the bat, including where it roosts or even its lifespan. (Some biologists think bonneted bats live between 10 and 20 years.) They do know that the population grows slowly as female bats only produce one offspring a year.
Bohn said the Bat Squad aims to fill that knowledge gap by gathering new information about the bat’s habits and habitat.
“The biggest thing we can do is find out more about the ecology of the species,” she said. “Everyone can help with this species because it is audible to human ears. Until we gather more information it is difficult to say what will have the largest positive impact.”’
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Original article from TakePart