By EVAN KUTH
Capital News Service
LANSING — Peter Fowler is an executive board member of the Bat Association of Michigan State University, which hosted a workshop on the importance of bats and their impact on the ecosystem, and built “bat boxes” for the valuable but often-unappreciated — and sometimes threatened — critters.
“For the community bat houses, we wanted to build something small, easy to mount in a number of locations and relatively versatile,” Fowler said. They’re 2- to 4-foot tall black wooden boxes that can hold up to 20 bats. Fowler says building them is a meticulous process.
“We’ll be burning them using a centuries old Japanese method called ‘Shou Sugi Ban,’ which literally translated means ‘burn cedar board,’” Fowler said. “Burning the boards helps preserve them, makes them water-resistant and gives them a dark color that can maintain the heat.”
Volunteers from across the state attended the workshop.
“We were really excited about the prospect of getting more habitat restoration going in the area,” Fowler said.
Bats are losing habitats left and right, including in mid-Michigan, he said.
“Just a couple of years ago, 200 trees were removed from the former Red Cedar Golf Course (in Lansing), which were known to be home to a number of endangered Indiana bats,” Fowler said.
He says that by building bat boxes, the group is trying to educate the public on the importance of the winged creature.
“Bat houses are a great way for the community to engage in habitat restoration, and it also serves as a point of education about the important role these often-ignored animals serve our ecosystem,” Fowler said.
Alexandra Shigley, the president of the MSU Zoological Students Association that helped put on the event, said giving bats homes will prevent the spread of disease by isolating bats and preventing them from gathering in large groups.
“In Michigan we have the white nose syndrome, and it actually wakes them up from their winter hibernation,” Shigley said. “It can spread so quickly. Researchers will go into these caves, and the bottom of these caves will just be covered in bats.”
Both groups are giving Lansing-area residents bat boxes to put up in their neighborhoods. Shigley says that if people are afraid of bats getting into their homes, bat boxes may be a solution.
“It’s important for people to know that bat boxes are a way to keep bats out of your house but give them a healthy place to live,” Shigley said.
Evan Kutz writes for Great Lakes Echo.
Editors: This article was corrected on June 21 to show Fowler’s position as an executive board member rather than as president.