These native mammals are just batty

Know your islands

Bats are the only native mammals in the Cayman Islands. There are nine distinct species of bats here and one endemic subspecies found only on Grand Cayman. All are beneficial to the environment and rarely interact with people. Most of our bats live in caves or in dense foliage. Of the ten kinds of bats that live here, only two eat fruit. This information is sourced from www.caymanwildlife.org and the information sheets on the National Trust website written by Lois Blumenthal and photographs were provided by Courtney Platt, www.courtneyplatt.com .

Bats

Many people think that a bat is just a bat, but that is akin to saying that a bird is ‘just a bird’. Cayman Islands Bats are not all the same and the Vampire Bat is NOT in Cayman. Some of our bats are very rare, and some are important to the control of insects, including crop pests like moths and beetles, as well as mosquitoes. Even fruit bats, though sometimes a nuisance to farmers, are actually eating up to 25% insects found on fruit crops, so they may be preventing more damage than they inflict. Fruit bats also ‘clean up’ overripe fruits in the wild and on farms which prevents them from becoming breeding grounds for even more destructive insects. When fruit bats are eliminated from an ecosystem, crop damage from pests becomes worse.

Velvety Free-tailed Bat

Molossus molossus tropidorhynchus
These tiny bats are named for their velvety soft fur. Their bodies are about the size of a person’s thumb. This species is one of the fastest flying of all bats. Velvety Free-tailed bats hunt thousands of insects every night, including mosquitoes, beetles and moths. Because they are our most numerous bats, they are the most important of all our bat species for insect control. (Many bats = many insects eaten!) We hope to never find out what would happen here without this bat! They are usually found in roofs and bat houses but they are also known to live in caves, especially on Cayman Brac. They do not hang upside-down, as do most other bats, but clutch the ceiling or wall with both the feet and wing claws. Like most bats, Velvety Free-tails only produce one young per year, but there are two birth peaks, one in June and another in September. Thus, exclusions from roofs and attics are only possible from November through May when all young bats can fly. The Cayman Islands subspecies lives in Cuba, Grand Cayman, and Cayman Brac. Other subspecies occur throughout tropical America.

Red Bat

Lasiurus – species unknown

This bat eats insects and it is very rare. The first Red Bat seen in the Cayman Islands was photographed hanging alone in a Sweetwood tree in 1999. The fur exactly matched the colour of the drying brownish-red leaves. Before that it was unrecorded here and remains extremely rare, with two more individuals being captured in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in April of 2000. It is not know if these bats are recent arrivals, or if they have always been here. They roost alone in foliage and are the only bats known to commonly give birth to more than one pup at a time.

If you find a hurt bat call 917-BIRD!

Bats are not birds, but this phone number is for all injured wildlife. Thanks to a donation from Cable & Wireless, we have an easy-to-remember cell phone number. The Wildlife Hotline will be answered seven days a week by volunteers who will help you to deal with wildlife problems or questions. Please do not call after 9 p.m. or before 7 a.m. except for emergencies.

Last week’s answer: A Flying Gurnard has huge, pectoral fins that often have brilliant, iridescent blue line and dot markings.

Trivia question: How many days does it take for Green Sea Turtles to hatch?

Look for the answer in next week’s feature!