Bring the family to BatFest on Saturday, July 14, and see the Lake County Forest Preserve District's resident colony of little brown bats.
The event runs from 6 to 9:30 p.m., when you can observe bats taking flight at sunset and learn how the lair began. All ages are invited to attend this educational program at Lakewood Forest Preserve on Route 176, just west of Fairfield Road, near Wauconda. Follow the posted signs to Shelter E.
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The grand finale will be watching bats leave the lair as they head out for their nightly food hunt. Illinois Natural History Survey ecologists will harmlessly net a few bats as they leave their shelter. The activity will be projected on a large screen so everyone can get an up-close look.
Bat learning stations will be offered throughout the event. Topics include a live bat presentation from "Incredible Bats," a bat box building demonstration, acoustic bat monitoring and tips to remove bats from inside a house.
Also, enjoy crafts for kids and face painting. Costumes are encouraged -- kids and adults can show off their best hand-wings and backward feet.
The event is presented in conjunction with the Year of the Bat global awareness campaign dedicated to teaching the valuable contribution bats make to the environment through pollination, seed dispersal, insect control and more.
The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children for Lake County residents; $7 for adults and $4 for children for nonresidents. For details, call (847) 968-3113.
When the resident colony of little brown bats was discovered at Lakewood, more than 200 baby bats and moms had established a nursery colony in the rafters of the picnic shelter.
Typically, little brown bats live in hollow trees, but these bats discovered that the shelter was warm, dry and safe from predators like raccoons, cats and hawks.
The Lake County Forest Preserve District saw this as an opportunity to save the bat shelter, preserve wildlife and teach the public about a misrepresented species. In addition, a new shelter was built for picnickers to enjoy.
Nearly 1,000 species of bats account for almost a quarter of all mammal species. Bats are highly beneficial and play a vital role in maintaining the balance of nature. They are the primary predator of night-flying insects.
A single bat may consume up to 3,000 insects in one night. One little brown bat can catch nearly 600 mosquito-sized insects in an hour, and big brown bats prey on some of America's most costly crop pests.