Parents of older children still have time to register for the later evening program at the 7th Annual Bat Fest, 7:30 Saturday evening Aug. 18. The festival at Gulf Branch Nature Center celebrates the lives of bats and asks people to help save myotis lucifugus the “Lucy Bat.”
The other program, at 6:30, is full, officials say. However, Bat Fest has other activities, and people are encouraged to come even without a reservation for the program. The wild bats start flying at dusk.
The Lucy Bats are transient residents, flitting through Arlington on their north/south migrations. In colder climes, where the bat sleeps through a long winter, they contract a fungus that disrupts its hibernation. Called “White Nose Syndrome,” the fungus has claimed the lives of about 6 million bats in the United States since 2006.
The problem is that the bat wakes up and must use precious energy to warm up before falling back asleep, said Rachael Tolman, a park naturalist at the Long Branch Nature Center. She said that throws off the delicate balance between energy and sleep for a bat the size of an adult’s thumb.
When that happens, the bats wake, starving, in February and fly outside, but there are no insects to eat. The bats starve or freeze to death, often just outside the cave, Tolman said.
It is tough to know exactly how many bats are left, especially in Arlington where they do not hibernate. And other bats that live in town are not affected by the fungus which cannot survive in warm temperatures. Caves in the northeast that held millions of bats at one time are now empty, Tolman said.
The program by Leslie Sturges, director of The Save Lucy Campaign and a bat rehabilitation specialist, includes live bats clinging to Sturges' gloved hands with video viewing for those who want a closer view.
“Bat Fest is a unique event where we can celebrate the little known but special creatures that share our area,” Sturges said in a statement. “As nocturnal mammals, bats are very misunderstood, and Bat Fest gives us a terrific opportunity to educate people about our nine local bat species, clear up some misconceptions, and explain how we can all help conserve and protect bat habitat.”
The program is $5 per person, sponsored by the Arlington Parks department and The Save Lucy Campaigne. For more details, see our events page.