Their turn at bats: Fisher students learn about fascinating creatures

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ARLINGTON — Fisher Elementary School went a little batty on Tuesday, thanks to two enigmatic visitors.

As part of the school's "Bat Week," wildlife specialist Kerry Monahan and small mammals biologist Alyssa Bennett from the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife visited Charlie Cummings' fourth grade class. Monahan, who introduced herself to the children as Dr. Chiroptera (from the scientific name for bats), was dressed in a lab coat, but Bennett took things even farther, dressing as none other than Bat(wo)man.

After having the students guess "true or false" with some bat facts, the presenters passed around some taxidermy bats for the students to look at as they explained a little bit about the animals' biology.

"They're dead!" exclaimed one student.

"They used to be alive," said Monahan, "but they donated their bodies to science."

Afterward, Monahan and Bennett led the students through an activity to help demonstrate how researchers identify different species of bats. Felt bats were placed in a net in the hallway, with toothpicks representing their fragile bones — to give students an idea how delicate experts have to be when handling the animals.

The students carefully extricated the mock bats from the netting, carefully placed them into a paper bag, and returned to their desks, where they weighed the bag, with and without the bat, so as to get a good indication of the creature's weight. Then they measured its forearms, and compared their results to a chart of native bats, the little brown bat, the Indiana bat, the tri-colored bat, and the northern long-earned bat, as well as two from further south, the Virginia big-eared bat and the gray bat.

Before the students could set about their work, Bennett raised an important concern. "Doctor!" she said. "We'll need to get them permits for the day to complete this work!"

Nonplussed, Monahan turned to the students. "You're right! Who here has $500?" After the students protested, Monahan sighed and said, "Alright, we'll have to waive the fee."

This week is the fourth annual Bat Week, an international celebration of the role of bats in nature organized by a team of representatives from Bat Conservation International, Organization for Bat Conservation, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Acoustics, Lubee Bat Conservancy, and the Save Lucy Campaign. To learn more, visit batweek.org, or follow the celebration on Facebook.

If you'd like to learn more about Vermont's bats, including what to do if you find bats in your attic or barn, visit the Fish and Wildlife Department's website at www.vtfishandwildlife.com/learn_more/living_with_wildlife/got_bats

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB


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