MILWAUKEE — Staff from the Superior and Chippewa National Forests and Urban Connections worked with partners to plan and present the first annual Minnesota Bat Festival. The festival was held on August 19th at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Bloomington, Minn. Approximately 3,400 people attended the event, which included both daytime and nighttime programs.
The daytime programs included live bat programs, live bat exhibits, bat survey technology exhibits and many bat informational stations. Participants could take part in many hands-on activities including bat crafts and face painting, bat house building, bat yoga, mock bat cave exploration, and practice emergence surveys. The Forest Service set up and staffed a “Be a Bat Scientist” station, where kids had the opportunity to try their hand at removing stuffed plastic bats from mist nets, using a key to identify the species, weighing them, taking measurements of their wings, putting bands on them, and even collecting “guano” (raisins).
The nighttime programs included live bat surveys using mist nets and acoustic detectors. The bat festival was a collaboration between several partner organizations including the Organization for Bat Conservation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, University of Minnesota-Duluth Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service.
Public interest in bats was also high in Wisconsin, where on Saturday, August 26, more than 3,000 people attended the Wisconsin Bat Festival at the Mitchell Park Domes. Attendees enjoyed live bat presentations, a visit to the bat cave, building bat houses, meeting the bat mascot, and kid’s activities. Presenters shared why bats are so important to our environment, what threats bats are facing, and techniques people can use in their own backyard to help bats and the environment. Urban Connections, along with RO staff and volunteers, shared information about bat ecology and the importance of pollinators to our environment.