ASHLAND, Wis. - The Wisconsin Bat Festival is moving north this Aug. 25, giving Northwoods residents and visitors a chance to see live bats up close, learn about them through science presentations and displays, and enjoy a host of family friendly activities aimed at demystifying this flying mammal and staple of Halloween celebrations.
The festival is free and runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, 29270 County Highway G, Ashland. The event is sponsored by the visitor center, the U.S. Forest Service, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Bayfield County Tourism.
"We're very excited to be able to bring the Wisconsin Bat Festival to northern Wisconsin," says Jennifer Redell, a conservation biologist with the Department of Natural Resources' Wisconsin Bat Program. "We invite people to come and celebrate the important and unique role that bats play in our world and learn more about how they can be part of helping bats."
The Wisconsin Bat Festival was started in 2011 to help raise awareness of the importance of bats and the threats they are facing from white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease of bats. White-nose syndrome does not affect people or other animal species, but causes hibernating bats to frequently wake, depleting their energy and causing them to die from starvation, dehydration or exposure to the elements. Since the discovery of white-nose syndrome in 2006 in New York, more than 6 million bats have died and the disease has spread to 33 states.
White nose syndrome was first detected in Wisconsin in 2014 and has since spread rapidly and ravaged bat cave populations in Wisconsin.
The free festival will feature bat-themed crafts and games for kids, a 70-foot inflatable cave that can be crawled through, bat houses, educational exhibits. Attendees have the opportunity to see live bats up close, including both Wisconsin bat species and a fruit bat native to Africa. They also will get the chance to interact with local bat experts using technology to study bats and capture bats using mist nets.
Redell hopes the festival will also help recruit new volunteers to help the DNR and partners track bat populations in the wake of white-nose syndrome. Volunteers can help count bats as they emerge from bat houses and other roosts at night, and can use bat detectors to "listen" for bats along pre-set routes they drive, paddle, or bike.
"Volunteers are the eyes and ears of the Wisconsin Bat Program," Redell says. "Many northern Wisconsin residents, including lake home and cabin owners, have bat colonies. We are excited to take the festival to a new location and for the opportunity to engage new groups of people who are interested in bat conservation."
For more information on the Wisconsin Bat Festival see the Wisconsin Bat Program website.
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR