We are excited to partner with Joanne Wasdin, a Naturalist with the Bear Creek Nature Center, for a series of blogs focused on our own local critters of the Southeast! Bear Creek Nature Center is a private non-profit located outside of Atlanta, Georgia that aims to spread the joy of nature and the outdoor world.
Of the 45 bat species present in North America, up to 16 of those species call the Southeastern United States home. Bats are vital parts of our local ecosystems and critical species in the future of agriculture and economics in our country. Though small (the largest bat species in the Southeast is only 5 inches on average!) bats are mighty critters, particularly in their speed and agility during flight. A single bat can eat thousands of mosquitoes in one night, and as a group of organisms they save the United States billions of dollars each year in pest control across industries. Bats are also active pollinators, and contribute to the biodiversity of native flowers and plants. Unfortunately, while bats are powerhouses in their ecological niche, they are particularly susceptible to human impacts. Habitat loss, including loss of critical habitat for their insect prey, has led to the decline of many bat species. This, coupled with the battle against white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that has been infecting bat species across North America, has threatened the stability of many bat species. But there is hope!
At Bear Creek Nature Center, we believe in inviting community members of all ages into the active process of conservation. Bat conservation begins with understanding. There are many ways in which the average citizen can contribute to conservation, whether they live in an urban, suburban, or rural landscape. Building and installing bat houses, cultivating native pollinator plants through decorative landscaping and gardens, polyculture agricultural practices, maintaining and limiting human interaction with culverts and caves, keeping our streams and creeks clean, and participating in public education are some of the ways that we can all do our part.
One member of our team that can help us to further appreciate bats is our resident animal ambassador, Tuttle. He is a native species to most of the United States known as a Big Brown Bat (”Big” in this case means about two inches from nose tip to rump!). Tuttle was injured by a cat, and lost part of his left wing rendering him incapable of flight. There is a dark adage in wildlife that goes, “A down bat is a dead bat.” Bats depend on flight for their entire life story. Luckily, Tuttle was able to be rescued and rehabilitated by AWARE Wildlife, a local rehabilitation center in the Atlanta metropolitan area. He has since joined the cabin at Bear Creek Nature Center to advocate for his species, and many other bats. We hope to continue education efforts in this region to spread the appreciation and understanding of creatures like Tuttle the Big Brown Bat.
If you ever come across an injured bat, please contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Animal Help Now is a wildlife emergency hotline that can help direct you to a licensed rehabber in your area. Please contact them through ahnow.org
Want to learn more about bats? Here are a few resources to help:
- Learn how to provide bat houses and habitats through Habitat for Bats, LLC (https://www.habitatforbats.org/)
- Visit the US Forest Service for an introduction to building pollinator-friendly gardens and agricultural spaces: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/gardening.shtml
- Visit your state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or USDA website for specific help on how you can implement native pollinator and bat-friendly spaces and practices into your daily life.
Would you like to personally support Tuttle? Just $3 can feed Tuttle for a week! Visit ko-fi.com/bearcreekATL to donate a bite to eat. You can learn more about Tuttle and his fellow animal ambassadors by visiting Bear Creek Nature Center on Facebook or Instagram (@bearcreekATL) and at bearcreeknaturecenter.org. We are just one of thousands of small, local nature centers across the US that work toward the welfare of native animals and community development through conservation and education.For the bats,
Joanne Wasdin, Naturalist