Bats are more than the squeaky, blood-sucking winged animals of the night. They are beneficial creatures that eat insects and make their homes inside caves.
Bats have a bad rap, but Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Biologist Jenny Beeler is aiming to fix that through the Batty about Bats programming set for Sept. 12 and 19.
“They’re an interesting species and we want to dispel some of the rumors people have about them. They’re not dangerous or disease ridden and they don’t try to scratch or pull on peoples hair,” said Beeler.
The program will have an educational video and echolocation demonstrations that show how bats communicate using echolocation. Visitors will also have the opportunity to try out night vision goggles used to view bats flying overhead at the park.
The timing of the event is pertinent — bats across the country are suffering and even dying from White Nose Syndrome.
This disorder consists of a fungus that grows on the bats face as they hibernate. The fungus can cause the bats to wake from hibernation and lose body fat which impacts their overall body temperature. It can also cause scarring on the bats wings and face.
CGNHP researchers first noticed WNS in Gap Cave in January 2013. While Beeler hasn’t noticed a percentage decline in the bat population, she has noticed less bats in their common gathering areas.
“There’s a place in the cave where 500 to 600 bats used to sleep. We could walk by and see them hanging from the ceiling. Now I’d say there’s only about 150 to 200 there, but that doesn’t mean they’ve died for sure because of White Nose. We’re just not completely sure where they’ve gone,” said Beeler.
Visitors on Sept. 19 will also have the opportunity to see a researcher in action, holding a bat and discussing important research opportunities in the park and how we can help prevent WNS.
Reservations for Batty about Bats can be made by calling the CGNHP Visitors Center at 606-248-2817. Only 20 reservations are available for 7 p.m., 7:45 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 or 19.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.