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Going batty over bats
Photo courtesy of Tim Daniel
Look out at the night sky, and what you may see flapping around isn’t a bird’s wings.
Bats serve an important purpose in nature, and Metro Parks is celebrating them by holding a handful of programs during July and August to educate the public about these nocturnal creatures.
The Eastside Messenger sat down with Scott Felker, at naturalist at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park, to talk about the role bats play and the importance of appreciating them, rather than fearing them.
CB: What are some misconceptions people have about bats that aren’t true?
SF: Some people still say that “bats nest in your hair.” Bats don’t nest, but do roost during the day in caves, buildings and trees.
All mammals, including bats, can carry the rabies virus. However, bats do not carry it at a rate greater than any other species.
CB: What important purpose do bats serve?
SF: Bats eat huge numbers of insects including mosquitoes and many crop pests. Their value to crop pest control in the United States alone is estimated at $23 billion to $54 billion annually. Around the world, bats not only control pests, but pollinate plants and disperse seeds.
CB: Are there several different types of bats? Is there one more common in this area than any other?
SF: Around the world there are about 1,000 species of bats, mostly in the tropics. The two most common species of bats in Ohio are the little brown bat and the big brown bat.
CB: One of the upcoming programs Metro Parks is offering gives people the chance to help count bats. Why is it important to count them?
SF: By counting bats, we can monitor year-to-year population trends in a given location.
Monitoring population trends can tell you the health of the habitat. Consistent or increasing numbers of bats likely means it’s a good habitat for them.
Conversely, a decline in numbers might indicate problems within the habitat or elsewhere. One grave threat to many bat species in North American is a fungal disease called “White Nose Syndrome” that effects them during hibernation in caves.
CB: What can people expect to learn at some of the other programs offered?
SF: At our programs, we learn about different kinds of bats, their adaptations, their benefits and we listen to them with a device called a bat detector as they hunt at dusk.
CB: Bats seem like one of those animals either you love or hate. What do you say to the people who aren’t as fond of bats as you are?
SF: They eat a lot of pesky bugs!
Upcoming bat programs
When: 10 a.m., July 10
Where: Pickerington Ponds, Glacier Knoll picnic area, Bowen Road
Details: Learn about bats through games, stories and activities.
Bringing in the Bats
When: 8 p.m., July 20
Where: Chestnut Ridge, Springhouse program area, 8445 Winchester Road, NW, Carroll
Details: Explore the life histories of these flying mammals as the park uses a bat locator to try and lure them in for a closer look.
When: 8:30 p.m., July 27
Where: Pickerington Ponds, park office, 7680 Wright Road, Canal Winchester
Details: Learn about Ohio’s bats and help count them as they leave for nocturnal hunting.
When: 8 p.m., Aug. 17
Where: Blacklick Woods, Ash Grove picnic area, 6975 E. Livingston Ave., Reynoldsburg
Details: Watch bats flying for their supper and eavesdrop on their echolocation signals.
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