Let’s start with a funny story about bats.
Here’s what happened last week to Barry.
He headed outside to his garage with a glass of water in the early evening.
He opened the side door of the garage when, suddenly, kerplop!! A bat fell down from the top of the door where it had been roosting and splashed feet-first into his glass of water.
It sat with its feet in the water, its wings spread wide, its mouth opening and closing, squeaking in fright.
After a few frightening moments it flew off.
Barry returned to the house.
“I think I need a new glass of water,” he said, shaking his head. “Don’t think I’ll drink the rest of this.”
The bat dunking must have been one of those foretelling omens. Little did we know that within the week he would receive a press release at the newspaper. The Quincy Mine in Hancock was featuring a Bat Day! Would we like to go?
Mostly we wanted to go because we had four hours in the Copper Country between a football assignment and a band gig. (His band played a wedding gig on the sand facing Lake Superior in Misery Bay last night. The best gig of the summer. Can you imagine getting married in a place called “Misery Bay”?)
Anyway, off we went to the Bat Event. Bat Event Today. Sounds a little strange, don’t you think?
Lots of other people mingled inside the old building looking at the displays, waiting to take a tram ride or tour the old mine. We remembered going on the tour a hundred years ago–OK, maybe twenty-five years ago–and suggested that maybe we ought to try it again one of these days.
But this day was for the bats.
We settled in a small room to listen to Allen Kurta from Eastern Michigan University, one of the foremost bat experts in the state.
We learned about the Eastern Bat, the Silver Haired Bat, the Evening Bat, the Big Brown Bat, the Little Brown Bat, the Northern Long-eared Bat, the Indiana Bat.
We learned about the three greatest threats to bats. Do you know what they are?
1) Wind Power. The big wind power turbines create havoc in the bat world. They don’t die from being chopped up in the swiftly moving blades. They die when they enter the low-pressure zone around the turbines and decompress too quickly. Their capillaries explode in the low pressure.
2) Habitat loss. Not a good thing. Improperly sealed mines can create many homeless creatures. When mines are sealed with bat-friendly closures, everybody wins. When too many trees are culled, the bats lose habitat as well.
Before I tell you the worst threat to the bats, let’s back up and share the most positive gift bats give us humans. They eat insects. Thousands of them. One bat can consume up to 2,000 insects a night. That’s just one bat.
Besides mosquitoes, they eat moths, beetles, flies, crickets, gnats, mayflies and wasps.
Those of us who live smack-dab in the middle of the woods should be doing dances of appreciation for the bat. Think how many more mosquitoes would dine on our tender skin without our bat friends. Think of what our world would be like without bats…
And now prepare yourself for the #3 threat to the species which is concerning people across the planet.
3) White nose syndrome. This is a fungus which grows on the bare areas of the bat and has killed more than a million bats in the Northeastern United States since 2006. The fungus doesn’t kill the bat directly; instead, it irritates the bat and wakes it from hibernation prematurely. Usually bats awaken every 10-20 days during the winter; the fungus causes them to awaken every three to four days. The bats exhaust their fat reserves and perish due to starvation.
“Mass mortality is expected next year,” Professor Kurta said. “It’s a pretty grim situation.”
The Organization for Bat Conservation brought a few live bats to the program and we were able to view them up close. (Barry, as you recall, has seen one VERY up close during the past week.)
For more information about bats, cruise over to their website: batconservation.org and learn much more valuable information. You can even sponsor a bat!
We were very impressed by the Bat Event at the Quincy Mine. We are even more impressed by the bats themselves…and hope something can be done to eradicate the disease which threatens them.