Bats, Inspiration, and Conservation
Emily Hayne, Wilderness Stewardship Fellow

As the world's only flying mammal, bats are widespread and differ in size, diet, and hibernation preferences. There are approximately 1,200 species of bats in the world ranging in size from the Kitti's hog-nosed bat, also called the "bumblebee bat", at 1.1 inches in length to the largest bat, the giant golden crowned flying fox with a wingspan of over 4 feet. In Wisconsin, there are eight different types of bats contributing to the ecosystems. All eight species are insectivores, some which consume thousands of mosquitoes per day!

Licia Johnson, a Naturalist and Interpretive Services Coordinator at North Lakeland Discovery Center, was a guest speaker for A.P. Environmental Science class. She came to Conserve School to present on bats in Wisconsin and even brought along Edgar, a big brown bat that gently rested in the palm of her hand. During this lecture students learned about bat anatomy, diets, reproduction and habitats. This lecture incorporated audio of bat echolocation and Licia shared how students can participate in acoustic surveys to identify bat species.

These fascinating creatures do face threats including habitat loss and White Nose Syndrome (WNS). First found on bats in New York state, WNS is a fungus that negatively affects bat populations. When bats hibernate, the fungus grows on the face and makes the animal sick. Over five million bats have died from WNS in eastern North America since 2006. The spread of this disease has been making its way west and has been identified in Wisconsin. After learning about bats and the threats they face, students were interested in ways they could promote sustainable bat populations. Licia shared that there are conservation projects to record bat populations in local communities and several students are interested in building bat houses to install on campus.

The students learned that Conserve School did indeed already have bat houses on campus, but they were in need of maintenance. A group of students decided to make repairing the bat houses their Taking Action Project for Stewardship Day. The students cleaned, repainted, replaced the hinges and made plaques for the bat houses to ensure the CS15 bat house legacy.

Story by: Emily Hayne, Wilderness Stewardship Fellow

Watch the video of students working on the bat boxes!

Video by: Rob Houle.

To learn more about bats and conservation of bat populations: