New River State Park goes Batty

Article Published: Jun. 10, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
New River State Park goes Batty

Naturalists at New River State Park plan to restore the good reputation of bats Saturday.

Photo by Lauren K.

Bats: The dark-winged insect slayers have a bad rep, naturalist Joseph Shimmel said.

He, along with other naturalists at New River State Park, aim to set the record straight.

"A lot of people have a fear of them or don't know much about them, so we try to dispel some of those myths," Shimmel said.

New River State Park is hosting a "Bat Day" Saturday to do just that. Children and adults are encouraged to bring a flashlight and wear comfortable shoes as they learn about the nocturnal mammals, and Shimmel assures you, they won't get caught in your hair.

"They use a sonar type system, echolocation," he said. "It's very fine tuned. That's how they can tell where the insects are. They can tell how far away they are, how big they are ... they have an amazing directional tool in that, so they're not likely to get caught in anyone's hair."

The hair-catching myth is just one of the fallacies naturalists hope to bring to light.

"People think they can't see," he said. "Actually, most bats can see better at night than we can during the daytime."

And these bats don't drink blood. The big brown bat, little brown bat and Mexican free-tailed bats native to the park eat insects, and lots of them.

"They are amazing pest controllers," Shimmel said. "A lot of the crops and other things actually depend on bats to control the insect population."

That's their job half the year, at least.

"Once it stats getting cold, that's when they do start hibernating," he said. "Here, there are a few caves, but typically most of our bats will find crevices in the rock ... or hollow trees. It's amazing that their heart rate in their whole body just slows down tremendously."

Their heart goes from beating 200 beats a minute to even slower than a human heart during the winter time, making these creatures, in Shimmel's opinion, remarkable.

Homeowners with attic bat issues, however, might not share Shimmel's opinion. According to Shimmel, there are two things you can do to evict the mammals.

"The best thing to do, there's actually what's called an exclusion device," he said.

Once you figure out how the bats are coming and going, you install the device, which has a mesh that allows bats to fly out of the home, but not back in.

Another option is installing a bat house on your property, giving bats a housing option that's not inside your home.

On Saturday, kids and adults will get up close and personal with the creatures as they view a slide show and watch the pest hunters in action. The event is free and starts at 8:30 p.m.
Attendees are encouraged to call the park at (336) 982-2587 for directions to the meeting spot: New River State Park's Wagoner Access at the contact station.

New River State Park, located at 358 U.S. 221 in Laurel Springs, surrounds part of what is believed to be one of the oldest rivers in North America: The New. The park takes up more than 2,200 acres. The New River was dedicated as a National Scenic River in 1976 and is a popular camping and canoeing destination.

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