Mukilteo Library visitors go ‘batty’

By Zoe Jovanovich | Jul 25, 2013
Photo by: Zoe Jovanovich Maya Rios poses with Robato the bat (in the container) at the Going Batty event on July 20 at the Mukilteo Library.

Visitors at the Mukilteo Library got in touch with the nocturnal at the Going Batty event on Saturday.

Bat expert Barbara Ogaard came in to talk about different species of bats, how they are beneficial to humans and the environment, and to discuss popular myths about bats.

“Bats get a bad rap, and we all know that,” Ogaard said in her opening speech. “Especially at Halloween, because the scarier [stores] can make bats look, the more people buy them.

“Well, I’m going to tell you right now that bats are very handsome, and when you meet the live ones, you are going to be really surprised at how cute they are.”

Ogaard is a volunteer at Sarvey Wildlife Care Center, and has been working with Bats Northwest since 1995, when it opened. She has done numerous presentations about bats at libraries and other locations.

“I’ve always been a rehabber of wild animals, and one day someone brought me a bat, and it was the most interesting creature I’d ever seen,” Ogaard said of how she got interested in bats.

There are 1,000 different species of bats in the world. All bats in the United States are insect eaters; there are no fruit bats.

Bats are incredibly important to the environment, fertilizing plants that produce everything from flowers to bananas and cashews. They also consume agricultural pests, and it is actually good to see bats at a farm, contrary to popular belief

As an added bonus, audience members got to meet Robato and Cleobatra, two rescued bats that couldn’t be released back into the wild, and are now used for educational purposes.

Robato, a big brown bat, or eptescius fuscus, was rescued after enduring a cat attack. Ogaard estimates that he is about 4 years old.

Cleobatra, a silver haired bat around the age of 2, was separated from her mother when she was very young. She flew into a house and got stuck there until wildlife rescuers retrieved her.

Audience members could look, but not touch. Children had a variety of reactions when Ogaard fed Cleobatra a mealworm.

“It’s awesome, because I love bats and they help people,” said 7-year-old Maya Rios.

Rios attends Fairmount Elementary. Her mother, Melissa Singh, said Maya had been looking forward to the event all week.

“I’m from East Chicago, and we didn’t have anything like this over there,” Singh said. “When I moved up here it was nice to see that they had all these [activities] that are very educational.”

Librarian Ruth Griffith helped organize the event, and was happy with its success.

“She can pitch it to any level,” Griffith said of Ogaard’s presentation. “She makes it fun for all ages.”

Griffith tries to create a few “crossover programs” for the library each year that appeal to all ages. She has known Ogaard for about 15 years, and has helped organize a similar event in the past at another library.

“You can’t really see a bat up close like that anywhere else,” she said.

In her presentation, Ogaard also emphasized that bats are wild animals, and not pets. If a bat is found on the ground, something is wrong and the nearest wildlife center should be contacted.

It’s important not to touch a bat with bare hands, to prevent the spread of rabies. A bat should only be handled while wearing gloves, and then put in a container until it can be picked up by wildlife center representatives.

For more information or to get involved, go to www.sarveywildlife.org and www.batsnorthwest.org.

Zoe Jovanovich is an intern for the Mukilteo Beacon.

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