The elusive Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus) occurs nowhere in the world but south Florida, and is believed to have the most limited geographic distribution of any species of bat in the U.S. However, so little is known about these bats that even the size of the species range is uncertain!
The bonneted bat is Florida’s largest Chiropteran species, with a wingspan of up to 20 inches. (To put this in perspective, most of Florida’s bat species have a 10-12 inch wingspan.) The ears of these bats are broad and forward-facing, giving their heads the appearance of a bonnet.
Historically, the species is reported to roost in natural structures such as royal palms, limestone rock outcroppings, and beneath rocks. However, only seven roost sites have been identified for the bonneted bat in the past 35 years, and only one of these was a natural structure (a cavity of a longleaf pine tree occupied by 8 individuals).
Previously known as the Wagner’s mastiff bat or Florida mastiff bat, the species was only recently reclassified as a separate species unique to Florida. Recognized threats to the bonneted bat include habitat conversion and alteration, vulnerability to extreme weather events, low population size, restricted range, low fecundity, large distances between occupied locations, and small number of occupied locations. The rapid pace of urban development in south Florida and the frequency of severe weather events in this region amplifies the urgency of gaining a better understanding of the species habitat requirements. Bonneted bats are currently proposed for listing as federally Endangered.
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-by Holly Ober