Going Batty at Gulf Branch


We’ve all heard of Christmas in July, but how about Halloween in August? The annual Gulf Branch Nature Center Bat Fest on Saturday, August 16, definitely had the feel of a Halloween preview with its celebration of all things bat. The planet’s only true flying mammals got their moment in the sun…er, dusk…with a wide variety of activities that acknowledged their important roles in insect control, pollination, and ecosystem health–– and especially their enormous contribution to international agriculture.

Why Bats Matter: A display from The Save Lucy Campaign (Photo courtesy of David Howell)

There were games of skill, crafts, bat walks, and lectures and live-bat demonstrations, as well as several opportunities to “be” a bat. ARMN volunteer Samantha Gallagher made another one of her whimsical animal boards that allowed bat aficionados of all ages to be photographed as a bat on the wing. To make the experience more authentic, the bat wannabe could chose from a variety of bat nose types to wear in the photograph. (Samantha’s glow-in-the-dark firefly board has been the hit of the past two Firefly Festivals at Fort C.F. Smith.)

A vampire bat and a leaf-nosed bat hit the skies. (Photo courtesy of David Howell)

There was even an opportunity to explore a spooky “bat cave,” an experience that required a bit of courage and a tolerance for dark, enclosed spaces. Spelunkers needed to sign a personal pledge to aid bats in a specific way (keeping cats indoors, turning off porch lights, etc.) in order to enter the cave.

A highlight of the Bat Fest was the presence of Leslie Sturges, a naturalist and wildlife rehabilitator, and president of The Save Lucy Campaign, an organization that empowers young people to become involved in bat conservation. (Lucy is both the name of an individual bat and a representative of her species, the Little Brown Bat, Myotis lucifugus.) Leslie gave three very informative lecture-demonstrations that featured a calm and light-tolerant bat.

Leslie Sturges projected the bat she held onto a screen for better viewing. (Photo courtesy of David Howell)

ARMN volunteers served as festival greeters and activity facilitators for the 150 or so adults and children who signed up for the event, some of whom came in full or partial bat or Batman costume. (Who knew that they make Batman Crocs?) If you missed the Bat Fest this year, you’ll definitely want to put it on your 2015 calendar.