MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., August 19, 2013 - Saturday, August 31, is Bat Night at Mammoth Cave National Park and around the world. Park staff have scheduled activities to take place throughout the day, and also at dusk, the prime time for viewing bats.
"We initiated Bat Night in the summer of 2011 and visitors really love it," said Superintendent Sarah Craighead. "Bats are an important part of the park's ecosystem. there are eight species of bats that frequent the park caves, and we have five other species that roost in trees. In the entire world, there are 1,200 species of bats, accounting for one quarter of all mammal species."
“There will be poster sessions and a display of fascinating bat information during the day on Saturday,” said Shannon Trimboli, education director of the Mammoth Cave International Center of Science and Learning, who is coordinating the event. “But at dusk, when bats wake up and start flying, we’re going to set up monitoring stations with night-vision goggles and equipment that will allow you to hear the bats calling. We encourage you to come see for yourself how this equipment is used to learn more about our bat populations.”
Daytime activities will run from11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.(Central Time) at the park Visitor Center. Posters on bat-related research at Mammoth Cave will be displayed. Activities designed for younger visitors are scheduled at10:30 a.m.,1:00 p.m.,3:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.at the Visitor Center.
Evening activities begin at the park visitor center at7:00 p.m. Visitors may rotate through several stations located between the Visitor Center and the Historic Entrance. Park staff and volunteers will be on hand to explain the equipment and answer questions.
This self-guided portion of the evening will allow visitors to learn about different scientific techniques and equipment used in bat research. Scientists will be available at each station for guidance and questions.
“The final station will be at the gate of the Historic Entrance and will give visitors a chance to use night vision goggles to watch the bats emerge from the cave,” said Ranger Leslie Price. “We encourage everyone attending to bring a jacket because the air escaping the cave is very cold, especially if you are standing in line waiting to use the night vision goggles.”
The stations will include:
Light-trapping of insects, used in studying what bats eat
Bat sound recording, used in studying bat calls
Thermal imaging, used in studying bat populations
Night vision goggles, used in studying bat populations
“Sadly, we will also be sharing information about white-nose syndrome in bats,” said Craighead. “It is a fungus that kills cave-dwelling bats. It was first found in a New York cave in 2006 and has since spread to caves and mines across the eastern states. White-nose syndrome has been found here at Mammoth Cave and at several other locations in Kentucky, as well as all surrounding states.”
Dr. Merlin Tuttle, founder and president emeritus of Bat Conservation International of Austin, Texas, states: “Simply because they are active only at night and difficult to observe and understand, bats rank among our planet’s most misunderstood and intensely persecuted mammals. Those that eat insects are primary predators of the vast numbers that fly at night, including ones that cost farmers and foresters billions of dollars in losses annually. As such bats decline, demands for dangerous pesticides grow, as does the cost of growing crops like rice, corn and cotton.”