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Judy Althaus is a conservation writer with The Nature Conservancy in Florida.

Late October brings a slight chill to the air and shadows fall early as we dare to tip-toe through the bat trailer. Secreted within a dark corner of The Nature Conservancy’s 12,000-acre Disney Wilderness Preserve in Florida, this trailer is not for the timid.

A rare maternity colony of Southeastern big-eared bats has claimed the trailer as home. They want to be alone, and — except for a monthly visit by Conservancy scientists — that’s exactly what they get. Plus a zillion wasps and some predatory rat snakes, of course.

It’s thought that the colony used to live within ancient cypress and swamp tupelo trees. These hollow structures in misty wetlands once provided privacy, but decades of swamp-logging forced the bats to look elsewhere. To lose these magnificent mammals altogether would be devastating.

A hunting haunt for previous owners, the bats’ chosen trailer has spiders bigger than I am. Holes yawn through the walls; its floor threatens to disintegrate at every step. Female bats in particular cling within, rejecting a new structure the Conservancy built for them just a few hundred yards away.

Certain parts of the country have caves with millions of bats, like Tennessee and Texas. Florida can point with awe and pride to this independent little colony, whose numbers are creeping back up.

But, trust me — it’s probably best to point from a distance. You can safely view a slideshow and check out the full story here.

-- Text by Judy Althaus, Cool Green Science Blog

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