Get batty the night of Aug. 12

Green Team will host An Evening with the Bats at the Town Square Ballroom

Naturalist Tom Wagner educates those attending “An Evening with the Bats”  last year about the mammal and its tendencies.             Laura Lyke photo

by Hannah Tetzlaff

Thought to be rabid vampires in disguise and flying rodents, bats are one of the most feared animals around.

Master naturalist Tom Wagner, however, is batty enough about bats to disprove these claims and reveal their true nature.

Wagner is setting the record straight on the night of Friday, Aug. 12, when he and the Green Team host An Evening with Bats. The event will take place at 8 p.m. in the Town Square Ballroom.

Attendees and bat enthusiasts have the opportunity to learn about the seven different bat species in Wisconsin and the many different misconceptions that the public may have about bats as Wagner gives his presentation.

After the presentation, Wagner will lead the group of individuals outside and set up an ultrasonic bat detector so that people can hear the call of the bats for the first time even before they spot them.

Though Wagner has a lot to say about bats and thoroughly loves sharing his knowledge, he believes the best part is the observing.

“I can do a presentation and talk all I want about the bats, but I think the highlight last year was going out there and seeing the bats fly over, listening to the bats and actually being able to locate them,” Wagner said. “Last year, I got done with my little presentation and [we went] outside, and we’re waiting and waiting. Next thing you know, one [bat], two and then there’s a number of them.”

Wagner hopes the bats will come out the night of the event, but he can never be sure because of factors like weather. If weather conditions are bad, such as rain and wind, the event will be rescheduled because bats can’t fly in cold, windy conditions, or else they will get hypothermia.

Many individuals are afraid of bats due to fallacies they may have about them.

“Misconceptions that they have about bats is that the bats carry a lot of rabies, which is not true,” Wagner said. “[Another] misconception is that they think the bats are related to mice, which they are not. They are a whole species by themselves; they are not flying mice at all.”

Wagner believes a lot of the misunderstandings the public has about bats is due to the media.

“I think [it’s] because of the movies or news and you always hear this thing about rabies … but they have no higher incident of rabies than any other animal,” he said. “Then, [there are] the movies with Dracula in it.”

Since attending a program in Sheboygan concerning bats and reading numerous books on the subject, Wagner plans to debunk the myths about bats and inform the public of their importance.

“When I first started investigating and reading about bats, I was amazed at all the good they do, from pollinating like bees, eating fruit … [to] all the insects that they can eat,” he said. “They can soar like an eagle or catch fish like an osprey … There are some fruits and nuts that if it wasn’t for bats we would not have [and] pecans are one of them. No more pecan pie.”

He added bats save billions on agriculture due to their habits, such as eating fruit, spreading seeds and pollination.

Although Wagner appreciates bats and the positive impact they have on the agriculture, he too doesn’t like finding bats in his own home.

He understands the experience can be scary; however, he suggests that people shouldn’t kill the bats.

“I get a lot of questions this time of the year,” he said. “[People ask], ‘Well, I’ve got bats in my house. How do I get rid of them?’ Well, you need to do that before they come out, so in early spring. [People should] plug up the holes so they can’t get in. This would be a bad time of the year to plug up the holes because [the bats] could have babies and you don’t want to have the babies starve.”

He added people who have bats in their homes right now should wait until winter, early spring or until after the bats go home to hibernate before they plug up the holes.

Wagner is presenting similar and more in-depth information that may prove useful and interesting to those who join An Evening with Bats.