Check beneath overpasses throughout Miami during the evening and you're sure to find more than just the homeless, assures Greynolds Park naturalist Paula Schneeburger. Making their home there as well: bats. Yes, you're not in Transylvania anymore, Dorothy. South Florida can lay claim to a small population of the world's only winged mammal. According to Schneeburger, wherever the little guys known as microbats (ranging from as small as a bumblebee to a wingspan under two feet) can hang upside down, they're likely to roost. Barns and attics are likely spots, and even a shopping mall in west Broward recently played host to the creepy critters.
But contrary to popular belief, bats are neither blind nor bad. While they do use sonar to navigate, they can see just fine. The Count Dracula legend also has spread the myth that the creatures like to feast on humans. Never true, claims Schneeburger, who says the bats that live among us prefer to chomp on insects of any kind, keeping that pesky population down and allowing us to reduce pesticide use. "Bats are an environmental indicator of a healthy system," the naturalist notes.
And promoting the benefits of bats is the object of the presentation Schneeburger created called The Misunderstood Mammal -- The Bat, taking place at Greynolds Park this Wednesday. The fun begins with a slide show and continues with a walk through the bird rookery, an up-close visit with an Egyptian fruit bat and her baby, and a look at some bat fossils that date back 60 million years.
With thoughts of mosquitoes disappearing and visions of Batman's heroics dancing in your head, you just might learn to love bats. As Schneeburger affirms: "They're pretty gentle." Their status as a mammal also makes them "one of us." But unless you want to get arrested, don't even consider keeping one as a pet. Owning native wildlife is strictly off limits.