WALDOBORO — The students of Medomak Middle School science teacher Madelon Kelly spent time last Monday making bat masks. Many of those students will then wear the masks as they trick or treat the streets of Rockland on Halloween, fundraising for research of White-nose Syndrome, a deadly fungus expediting the bat decline.
Also on Halloween day, students will participate in a nationwide event aiming to set a world record by building 5,000 bat boxes in a day. Attendees of this Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center effort will build bat boxes constructed from kits created by students of Camden Hills Regional High School.
Medomak Middle School’s focus on these creatures, which employ magnetic field detection in order to navigate their migrations, fits into the school’s science curriculum study of magnetism.
Kelly’s students are learning the valuable role bats play in a healthy ecosystem and the dramatic decrease in their numbers due to habitat loss, human interference and White-nose Syndrome. In Maine, concentrations of White-nose Syndrome appear highest in the Down East region, but the fungus can be found anywhere.
Maine has eight species of bats which play important roles insect control. A bat can devour as many as a thousand mosquitoes an hour.
Of those eight Maine species, the Little Brown Bat has seen an estimated 99 percent decline, according to Wild Life Refuge summer intern Jaclyn Robidoux during a previous presentation.
Along with the deadly fungus, which is attributed to the deaths of 55 million bats, windfarm operation attributes to a decline of 1.7 million bats in the United States and Canada. Degradation, loss of habitat, and pesticides also pose problems for the gentle creature unfairly reputed in Halloween scares, according to Robidoux.
National Bat Week focuses on the benefits these small mammals provide and is observed in the U.S. and Canada.
The box-building event, Saturday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., will coincide with a free children’s program at the Visitor Center lead by author/illustrator Brian Lies. Lies writes a children’s book bat series, which includes Bats at the Beach and Bats at the Library.
There also will be bat talks for adults by local bat educator Annie Kassler on Thursday, October 29 at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, October 31 at 2 p.m. Visit www.maineseabirds.org and www.batweek.org for more information.