Thursday, August 27, 2015

What's to Love About Bats? Eno Discovery Camp Kids Can Tell You!

I love bats. It started when I was a child, playing with my friends under the streetlights on warm summer evenings and watching the bats dive to catch mosquitoes and moths.  One evening I tossed a small rock in the air to see if a bat would chase it, and accidentally knocked one to the ground.  As my shock at what I'd done turned into fascination that it didn't look like the bats from horror movies; rather, it looked like a tiny, sweet and furry bear.  Thankfully, I had just stunned it and the little brown bat took off to eat more bugs.  When I was a teenager a bat caught (and lost) a wing on the antenna of my car, giving me the perfect opportunity to explore the structure and function of said wing.

My infatuation was complete in college when I began working at Appalachian State's Camp Broadstone in Valle Crucis, NC and became a guide into the caves of eastern Tennessee, learning awesome facts about how valuable they are to our ecosystem. Did you know bats eat up to 3,000 mosquitoes and moths a day?  Or that they aren't blind, but use a combination of echo-location, sight and memory to navigate the terrain?

Fast forward to 2015, when White Nose Disease has wiped out almost 80% of the brown bat population.  Our staff is so very fortunate to be able to nurture the same love and appreciation in our Eno Discovery Camp kids through environmental stewardship projects.  This summer, we (kids and staff) constructed, stained and erected the bat houses 13 feet high near tree lines and water throughout the park in an effort to help create save roosts for bats.  This is one of the new strategies thought to be a solution to combating the spread of the disease.  If all goes well, we should have bats roosting within 1-2 years, and the Eno should have many fewer mosquitoes-- and White Nose disease-free bats!

Campers staining the bat houses

Kids fascinated by concrete being poured

Helping Kenny and Keith hold up the post