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  • A rare southeastern big-eared bat colony was first documented at The Disney Wilderness Preserve in 1992, although preserve staff believe they had been in the trailer for 10 to 15 years prior to that. Five more common bat species are also known to live on the preserve.
    © Erica LaSpada/TNC
  • Florida peninsular bats don't hibernate. They may become sluggish and huddle together for warmth in winter months. As many as 50 southeastern big-eared bats will snuggle together in a writhing mass. This species hangs flush against the wall, as opposed to 'pendant' – the way most bats hang by their toes to roost.
    © Linda Cooper
  • The Southeastern big-eared bat weighs only seven to 13 grams and is thought to live about ten years. With relatively large and broad wings, they are slow fliers with excellent maneuverability – helpful when picking bugs off dense vegetation.
    © TNC
  • This little crib was once slept in by the great-granddaughter of the preserve’s original owner, Asa Candler, who founded Coca-Cola. Laura Frances McKinney – who first told staff about the bat colony – reminisced that her family used the trailer as a hunting camp on their large, historic family timber holding. The Nature Conservancy is reassembling as much as possible of that property for conservation.
  • The trailer colony is a perfect place to study the bats because it is so accessible. However, the Conservancy leaves them alone as much as possible. These bats are extremely sensitive to disturbance and will abandon a roost if they are disturbed frequently. Preserve staff monitors the population inside the trailer monthly. Starting at around 50 in 1992, the population had declined to as low as 10 before recently increasing to 15.
    © TNC
  • There are a number of roosts in giant, hollow cypress and swamp tupelo trees in the swamp around Reedy Creek. Bats fly into these hollow trees to rest and feed. It’s possible that some males live in the swamp year-round. However, the maternity colony of the local population is thought to exist primarily in the bat trailer.
    © Flickr user Seuss in NC
  • This spiffy new bat house was built to mimic conditions in the trailer, which is falling in on itself. The bat house is used by a small number of bats, most of them males. It has not been accepted by the breeding females, who prefer to stay separate from males during the May-June pupping season.
    © TNC
  • Florida has fewer bat species and fewer individuals than most states. Because Florida offers few caves, there are fewer large accumulations. Most bats eat their weight in insects every day – keeping down the mosquito count, for one thing! The yellow rat snake, a bat predator, is routinely found inside the Conservancy’s bat trailer. Staff removes these snakes whenever possible.
    © Flickr user Ross@Florida
  • Laura Seckbach Finn has collaborated for years with the Conservancy while studying the bat colony for her master’s thesis and follow-up research projects. The Conservancy provided volunteers and equipment, including radio receivers to track the bats. During telemetry sessions, Seckback Finn and crew would stay out all night, every night for two straight weeks to document the bats’ movements. One study detected a negative reaction by the bats to airboats running up and down Reedy Creek; this forced the bats to forage in distant areas.
    © Flickr User Chris Devers
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The Disney Wilderness Preserve Bat Trailer

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