What's the only true flying mammal -- more closely related to a dolphin than a mouse -- that ensures the pollination of banana and avocado crops around the world? It's a bat!
On Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m., retired U.S. Forest Service Cave Specialist Jim Nieland offers his bat expertise to the community in "The Bats and Birds of Halloween" at the Discovery Center and Museum in The Dalles.
Following his presentation, the raven and the owl will be the focus of the 2 p.m. Birds-of-Prey show, with an emphasis on why we associate these ominous birds with the spookiest of holidays.
Nieland works as a bat consultant to agencies and individuals throughout the West who are concerned with bat populations. Whether they are closing abandoned mines in the Mojave National Preserve, or simply have "bats in the attic," Nieland helps find solutions that are both agreeable to humans and wildlife-compatible.
"Most people are living with bats, and don't even know it," Nieland states. He and his wife Libby, a bat specialist, enjoy teaching the natural history and ecological necessity of the bat to the residents of the Pacific Northwest.
"I met a gentleman in a coffee shop who was complaining about how much he hated bats," Jim relates. "Sometimes a juvenile bat gets lost when going out alone at night for the first time without it's mother. When it accidentally ends up in your living room, it's generally not well received. I told this fellow, an avid fisherman who loves his outdoor barbeque, that his little brown bats (Myotis volans) were each consuming 600 mosquitoes per hour. And the next time I heard him down at the diner talking about bats, he'd changed his tune!"
The Discovery Center is home to several species of raptors and a raven, all native to the Gorge. "The Great Horned Owl is a well-equipped and fearsome nocturnal predator, with almost ten times the talon strength of a human hand, and 30 times the night-vision. The raven has been associated with death and ill-omen for hundreds of thousands of years. Both birds, however, like the bat, are really key contributors to the health of our ecosystem, and agriculture," says Roxandra Pennington, one of the museum's several Birds-of-Prey presenters.
"Bats and Birds of Halloween" is an educational way to celebrate the season, by meeting some of these avian creatures up close. Suited for adult naturalists and children, alike. Included with paid admission to the museum, or $3 for program only.