Bat Fest: Super Heroes of the Night

A WI Big Brown Bat

Bat Fest took place this weekend at the Urban Ecology Center located in the Menominee Valley of Milwaukee, WI. The Urban Ecology Center is located near Miller Park on the Menominee River and Hank Aaron State Trail. Laudato Si’ Project brought Marquette High School students to volunteer at the event and learn more about these amazing mammals of the night. Researchers and biologists from the Urban Ecology Center, US Forest Service, and WI DNR presented about WI bat ecology, conservation, populations, migration, and hibernation.

Throughout the evening, biologists and researchers also demonstrated the process of capturing flying bats with the use of mist nets (fine mesh) and harp traps (vertical bands of fishing line leading down to a catchment bag). Bats use echolocation to navigate so catching them in mist nets can be difficult because they can actually detect the fine netting. Therefore, researchers often place these nets along old logging roads or waterways that bats frequently use and therefore rely less on their echolocation allowing for easier capture in the nets.

WI boasts 7 species of bats; little brown, big brown, silver-haired, northern long-eared, eastern red, hoary, and eastern pipistrelle (compared to many western states having several dozen species). Our 7 bat species are divided into 2 categories, those that hibernate in WI in caves, old mines, and houses (4 species) or those that migrate to warmer climates for the winter (3 species).

Also demonstrated at Bat Fest were some other monitoring techniques used by researchers and biologists. These included echolocation acoustic surveys, radio telemetry, and banding. Acoustic surveys require a machine that takes the ultrasonic echolocation sounds of bats and displays it visually on a screen (similar to a stereo showing the basis levels). These sounds even allow them to identify individual species. Radio telemetry utilizes a small tracking device affixed to a captured bat that will allow for biologists to track its feeding, movements, and roosting/hibernation via an antennae. Lastly, banding of bats is very similar to that used on birds for centuries. A captured bat has a unique numbered mental band attached to its forearm (without hurting the bat) and if that bat is captured somewhere else, researchers are able to gain valuable insight into lifespan, migration, and hibernation.

A band placed on a WI big brown bat

One bat that was captured and banded in Door County, WI was recaptured 4 years later in a cave in Copper Harbor of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Another bat that was captured and banded 34 years ago has been recaptured several times and if it is caught again next year, it will be the longest lived bat known in the world.


If you are interested in helping with these types of citizen science monitoring programs where you live, contact Laudato Si’ Project Here.

“The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 2415


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