Page 16 - Scene Magazine 41-10 October 2016
P. 16

At The Zoo
By SEAN MURPHy, Zookeeper
   Halloween is right around the corner and this means dif- ferent things to dif- ferent people. Per- sonally, I enjoy the “spooky” elements of the season, and Halloween high-
lights the symbols of the holiday such as bats, spiders and other animals that people may find “creepy.” As a zoolo- gist, these reactions give me an exciting opportunity to teach people how the things they may find creepy are actu- ally some of the more vulnerable and interesting animals of this world.
Bats. What does this word conjure up for you? For some it means vermin or something gross and scary, but for others it takes on a completely different mean- ing. I often tell people that the animals they fear most are actually the ones that they should want around their homes,
Bats – An Unsung Hero
with all of them having certain advan- tages. Through all the myths and fears surrounding bats, they are one of nature’s great exterminators. As an insectivore (an animal that eats only insects), bats fly around at night catching many different flighted insects including one that almost everyone sees as a pest, the mosquito. On average a big brown bat, one of nine bats native to Michigan, will consume 2,000- 6,000 mosquitoes in a single night, not to mention many other varieties of insects.
Bats also serve many other purposes such as helping to pollinate and spread seeds, eating their own body weight in insects each night, and providing medical breakthroughs for vaccinations and re- search. Bats save farmers across the nation billions of dollars in pesticides and pest control and help keep crops healthy. The study of their sonar capabilities and flight has even helped with technological break- throughs. Do bats sound so scary now?
Bats are amazing creatures and very beneficial to humans, but they are in trou- ble. Like many other plant and animal species around the world, bats are threat- ened by human encroachment, climate change, urbanization, and pollution. But one of the biggest, current threats to our bat population is white-nose syndrome. White nose syndrome is a fungus that af- flicts bats during their hibernation in win- ter. The fungus wakes the bats up during their hibernating period causing the bats to freeze or starve to death. Bats, like bears, ready themselves for hibernation during the cold months by building up fat reserves during their hibernation. If awak- ened, they will want to search for food, but unfortunately find none due to the time of year. Current research on this fungus re- veals some promising leads, with hopes to save bats before they become extinct.
So what can you do to help? Well, there are many ways to get involved in bat conservation. Contacting your local nature center will provide many details on bats native to your area and what to watch for to help maintain their health and population. Building bat houses can attract bat colonies to your area and help with their reproduction while at the same time reducing mosquitoes in your yard. Getting involved with bat conservation groups, #savethebats, will allow you to help contribute to the education of others and conservation of these amazing crea- tures. Our own state has a great conserva- tion group called the Organization for Bat Conservation based out of Bloomfield Hills. This group gives educational talks and presentations with live bats as well as demonstrations on how to build your own bat houses.
So the next time you see a bat, just re- member this “creepy” creature is an “un- sung hero.”
  Photo by Steve Gettle
  58 W. Michigan in Downtown Battle Creek • 269-224-3089 •

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