Bad-rap bats, furry friends to star in show

A FACE A MOTHER COULD LOVE—you can, too, when you learn more about bats Saturday.

A FACE A MOTHER COULD LOVE—you can, too, when you learn more about bats Saturday.

A free presentation at Wild Birds Unlimited, 5426 Northland Drive, Saturday, October 3, will have you hearing like a bat.

Demonstrations of eco-location—the bat way to navigate in the dark—are among lessons visitors will experience.

Dawn Vezina, educational specialist from the Bat Zone at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, said their bat programs evoke a range of responses from people.

“People’s attitudes change, often within a couple of minutes,” she said. “They may be apprehensive about bats, but then they get a close look at them, their attitudes change. They usually warm up to them.”

Vezina said other animals will be present for the one-hour show, including flying squirrels and sugar gliders. No touching will be allowed, but seeing the animals up close is exciting.

In the program, viewers will learn about adaptations animals use to thrive in their environment, big eyes for night vision, whiskers, and more.

The real stars will be the bats. Laurie Tiemen, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited, said she is excited to see the fruit bat, the largest bat and not native to the United States.

She said bats are important to the ecosystem, and receive a bad rap. “You should be happy if you have bats,” she said. “They can eat up to 6,000 insects a night.”

Vezina said among the bats food are not only mosquitos, but agricultural pests. “They are a huge benefit for farmers and gardeners, and that’s a huge benefit for all of us.”

Forty percent of all bat species are threatened or endangered, often because of loss of habitat. In the United States, loss of caves is impacting bats, who need them for nursery and hybernation. In Michigan, bats that used to migrate to the southern United States to the caves of Kentucky and other states now migrate north to the upper peninsula where they hibernate in former mine shafts.

People can encourage bat populations by putting up bat houses, which simulate their natural homes in cavities in dead and dying trees. Even city-dwellers can accomplish this. Vezina said bat houses can go up on a pole or building. They should be installed fifteen feet off the ground in a sunny location, preferably facing south or southeast.

People can also avoid spraying pesticides. These either kill the bats food or make the surviving insects poisonous.

Find out more about bats, animal adaptation and see creatures live this Saturday, October 3 at Wild Birds Unlimited. The program is free and begins at 2:15 p.m. To find out more call the store at (616) 364-5443.

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