Northern Wisconsin Bonkers for Bats

7th Annual Bat Festival Takes Place at Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

ASHLAND, Wis.- Northlanders are going bat–crazy as the 7th annual Wisconsin Bat Festival comes up north from the Madison/Milwaukee area for the first time.

It seems bats have always suffered an image problem, never associated with anything good, accept for Batman. But biologists say, there’s so much more to these furry flyers.

“One little Brown Bat that we have right here in Wisconsin can consume anywhere from 1,000 to maybe 1300 insects in an hour,” said Wildlife Biologist Brian Heeringa.

At the festival, the Bat Cave is one of the favorite attractions, even though they can’t really fit the Batmobile in there. And don’t worry, no real bats, only plastic.

“It’s dark in there and you get to wear a mining helmet type thing. And I just think it’s really cool,” said attendee Jack Lionel-Prizer.

Experts here say there are over 1,200 bat species in the world, many right here in wisconsin. They all live in caves much like this one. No batman or robin here, just some fun little bats.

Bats everywhere across the globe aren’t there to look…..pretty. They all play vital environmental roles.

“They pollinate plants, they distribute seeds, they help propagate crops in different areas,” Heeringa said.

While the Bat Festival is full of educational, hands–on fun, it serves another purpose: bringing awareness to white–nose syndrome.

The white fungus attacks the bats’ nose and wings, and causes them to wake frequently during hibernation. They then starve and die.

It was detected in Wisconsin in 2014. The fungus has no effect on humans, so Wisconsin Bat Program has many ways that humans can help, like building a Bat house.

“They have a bat roost monitoring program where if people have a Bat roost they know of and are interested they can let the DNR know and they can count and let the DNR know that,” said Heeringa. “It really helps us understand the greater population across the state.”

Back at the bat fest, it seems the bad bat reputation is flying away.

“I thought it was really cool, since I’ve never saw a real bat,” said Collin Grahn.

That’s one small step for Collin, one giant leap for bat-kind.

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