Years ago two large picnic shelters were built at the preserve, which local Little Brown Bats found to be great places to roost. Picnicking humans were not happy to find guano on their picnic tables and dropping into their food, so the district decided to rezone the shelters – one for people and one for the bats. The picnic shelter was modified to be less appealing to bats and the bat shelter was cordoned off so people would not disturb the roosting bats.
The large colony of Little Brown Bats at Lakewood made it a perfect spot for Batfest. There were several tables set up at the preserve with exhibits about the bats of Illinois, making bat houses and other neat bat information. There were also two presentations by bat experts, one of whom brought a couple of her rehabilitation and education bats to show to attendees. During these presentations we learned a lot of neat facts about bats, including:
- There are over 1000 species of bat
- A bat’s claws are naturally in a curled state. They use their muscles to uncurl the claws in order to grab onto a perch, and then relax to remain clamped on
- All bats can see
- Vampire bats’ saliva contains a substance which prevents clotting
- Vampire bats will share their food with other bats who are hungry and unable to get food for themselves
- Bats are an important pollinator for one of the ingredients used to make tequila (when this was mentioned, the crowd murmured ‘thank you, bats’)
After the two informative presentations, darkness began to fall and it was time to look for bats. Everyone gathered around the shelter. It was a huge crowd: bats are popular here in Lake County!
Researchers set up a mist net to capture bats as they left the shelter for the evening. Since the crowd was so large they had live camera which was projected onto a huge screen to capture the action in case a bat was caught. Soon after the first bat was spotted leaving the roost, another bat was caught in the net. She was brought in front of the camera and the brief examination was shown on the screen. It was neat to see the bat expert show features of the animal that helped her determine the age and sex of the bat. The exam reminded me of the bird ringing we observed recently, but the image on the screen reminded me of MST3K: