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  • Writer's pictureAyoLane Halusky

The Bats of Palakta

Palatka Embracing Riverfront Bats.

The city of Palatka is moving towards a river city that recognizes nature’s community by highlighting their contribution to the health and wellbeing for those who live and visit this historical city.

It is rare that people recognize the beneficial contributions of nature before it disappears.  For almost 100 years short tails bats have been living in colonies under the memorial bridge that connects Palakta and East Palatka over the St Johns River. In 2005 DOT (the department of transportation) built a walkway under the northern side to connect the Riverfront Park with the rails to trail program and bat observation. Very few people know of its existence and even less know why it was built. It is surprising that there are very few indicators that the observation walkway is there and visitors would almost have to stumble across it to discover it. Not only being a great place to see the sunset drop behind the city, it is also an ideal place to safely get up close and personal with the roosting bats who live under the bridge. I would love to see a sign under the bridge describing Florid bats and all the benefits they offer.

One of the most noticeable benefits of bats that people who visit the Riverfront Park experience are, an extreme reduction of mosquitoes and other biting insects. If the bats disappeared or were removed from the bridge, the effect would be noticed immediately on the first warm spring evening. The loss of bat habitat in coastal and forested land will do just that, unless more habitats are restored or places to roost are created.

The only mammals that truly flies, bats are categorized in the order of Chiroptera meaning "hand wing" and are found in the fossil records over 65 million years ago. Currently there are over 1000 known species of bats world wide, 13 are native to Florida. All 13 Florida native bats are insectivores, meaning they eat insects. In fact most insectivorous bats will eat their body weight or up to 3000 insects in one night. Imagine if we created more homes for bats to roost during the cold months and day time. More bat homes would mean less biting bugs and a more enjoyable atmosphere for the warm summer nights along the river. There are opportunities to create a contest with the schools and science camps to create the ideal bat habitats to be installed on the riverfront park area, as well as, under the bridge. There are no regulations against or issues with DOT or FWC to do this.

Ecotour companies are moving in the area to showcase the beauty and magical world of beneficial nature that is surrounding the St Johns River and Palakta is becoming the focus. Kayaking, Biking, Fishing, Boat tours and Hikes in and around the historical city. Begin your visit by driving or walking the streets to see the amazing painted murals hosting many aspects of the culture of this beautiful city.

Earth Kinship Ecotours is starting to offer educational programs and kayak trips to learn more about these amazing mammals. Other nonprofits like Bartram Trail Society are establishing historical tours and events throughout the year helping locals and visiting tourists feel welcome to experience all that Putnam County has to offer.

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