Rock on! Enter a cave! Go bats! Have a blast! Do it all on Saturday, Oct. 19 at the YMCA in Elkins, where cavers, scientists and others will join to share their knowledge of all things subterranean.
On Saturday, Oct. 19, Appalachian Forest Heritage Area and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources are hosting a fun-filled celebration of caves and bats. This family-friendly event, called Bats and Caves ROCK, will take place at the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
There will be entertaining, hands-on activities for children of all ages, including a 70-foot inflatable cave, make-your-own bat masks, temporary tattoos and prizes. Parents and other community members are encouraged to learn about bats by reading interpretive signs, talking to experts and volunteers and watching a new film about White-Nose Syndrome, "Battle for Bats."
Jim Fregonara, wildlife biologist with the DNR, hopes that many families will attend the event to learn about bats.
Fregonara said, "This event is sure to teach kids about the importance of bats and caves. Our goal is to dispel some of the myths that are out there and to show these kids just how beneficial bats are to the environment and to us."
The significance of bats is an important message, especially around Halloween. At this time of year, people tend to think more about bats, and not always in a positive light. Bats are important members of our world.
Bats consume over half their body weight in insects each night, making them primary predators of night-flying insects including many crop and forest pests. Recent studies have concluded that losing bats could result in agricultural damage as high as $53 billion each year. Bats are also important in pollination, seed dispersal and cave ecosystems. Research on bats has led to advancements in sonar, vaccines and even blood coagulation.
Bats are now under attack. There is a new disease that affects bats while they hibernate in caves and mines called White-Nose Syndrome. The disease causes bats to wake up during hibernation, which makes them waste nearly all their stored energy. Awareness and research are needed to help bats in the fight against this devastating disease.
Caves and Bats ROCK also includes screenings of the new film "Battle for Bats." The film focuses on why bats are critical to people and what people can do to protect bats and help spread the word about White-Nose Syndrome. The short film will play at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Cynthia Sandeno, a cave specialist and event organizer, said, "Never have bats needed our help more, so please come out to this event to learn how you can make a difference!"
For more information, please contact Beth Simon, AFHA AmeriCorps Ecological Technician at CavesAndBatsRock@gmail.com.