Bat lovers from all around Milwaukee gathered to learn about and appreciate these flying critters at the annual Wisconsin Bat Festival on Aug. 26. This year, the festival was held at the Michell Park Horticultural Conservancy.
The event was presented by a consortium of OBC, US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and WI Department of Natural Resources, and it had something for everyone. Activities and presentations included bat diet and guano dissection, skeletons and skins, bats and rabies, bat yoga, bat origami, face painting, an inflatable bat cave, a spot to test your bat senses, an area to build bat houses, several live bats, and more.
“They had two mega bats, and it was awesome,” said 24-year-old Hilary Kendal, who has a degree in conservation. “I never thought I would get to see one in my life time.”
Some bats there included a big brown bat, an African fruit bat, and a Malayan flying fox bat, which is the largest species in the world with a 6-foot wingspan. All three were injured and flightless.
North American bats are dying at an alarming rate due to a disease called white-nose syndrome.
Rob Mies, conservation biologist and Executive Director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, was there to speak out about the importance of bats and what we can do to help them.
According to Mies, we have lost about 1 million bats to white-nose syndrome. This fungus grows on the walls of caves where bat go to hibernate in the winter. It then starts to grow on the bats while they sleep, bothering their skin and changing their metabolism.
“Their bodies are trying to fight it off,” said Mies. “Unfortunately, it wakes them up too many times, and they die before the end of winter”.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 26 species of bats are critically endangered, 51 others are endangered, and 954 are
To many, bats are frightening creatures that fly around in their attics. While you may not want them in your home, there are several reasons why we should help protect them.
Bats are amazing for pest control. According to Mies, a 10-inch little brown bat can eat two to five thousand insects a night. That’s over half that little guy’s body weight in pests that are harmful to people’s gardens.
Some bats also eat fruit and nectar from flowers. Fruits like bananas and avocados are pollinated by bats. If healthy eating means nothing to you, bats are also the only creatures that pollinate blue agave, which is where tequila comes from. No bats means no margaritas on Taco Tuesdays at Belair.
One thing we can do for our local bats is to put up a bat houses, which provides a dry, safe place for them to live and care for their young. The bat house should be about 12-15 feet off the ground and facing an open sunny location. Planting a garden is another good way to help the bats, because that is a great place for them to eat up the moths and prepare for hibernation.
To learn more, get involved in monitoring local bats, or see how to build a bat house in Milwaukee, visit http://wiatri.net/inventory/bats/ or Dnr.wi.gov and search “volunteer”.
With fall on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get involved. #savethebats