Cub scouts take constructive approach to endangered bats
When Kathie Ponder discovered that Indiana had experienced a one-third decline in its bat population during this year alone, she wanted to pull her cub-scout den together to help, but with negative stereotypes abounding, she wasn’t sure her idea would fly.
‘We need to do something about the bats,’ she said to den parents.
‘We agree. We like the bats,’ said volunteers as they came forward. It didn’t take much convincing, and why should it?
As Ponder and her den can attest, thanks to a lesson and worksheet on bats, Indiana’s most common bat, the brown bat, can eat 600 mosquitoes an hour, and, having no interest in humans as quarry, the negative Hollywood image isn’t justifiable.
While it isn’t known if the overall bat population is declining or if the migratory mammals are simply relocating, one thing is for certain: Indiana bats are disappearing from caves they’ve long inhabited.
Annually, ‘35,000 have made their home in Wyandotte Cave, and now they’re gone, and it’s not known where,’ Ponder said. Concerned that cave tourism may be putting the bats in the market for new homes, Ponder decided to go into the real-estate business.
After some research (check out www.batcon.org), Ponder found blueprints for bat houses, and, armed with new-found knowledge and a sense of purpose, Pack 22’s Webelos Two mobilized its resources.
Scout dad David Froman sized and cut the lumber and Assistant Den Leader Lance Ponder finished it. When the scouts arrived at Hayswood Nature Reserve in Corydon on Saturday morning, all that was left was the actual construction of the houses.
‘Mr. Lance,’ as the scouts call him, gave a brief explanation of the anatomy of a bat house before turning the group of mostly 10-year-olds loose to construct the humble abodes.
The homes were about 16 inches wide, 22 inches tall and only about three inches deep. Ideally, bat houses should be mounted at least 15 to 20 feet above the ground on a building or pole and away from lights. They can be put in trees as long as the leaves do not shade them too heavily in the summer (the houses should have at least four hours of sunlight per day).
All but one member of Webelos Two made it on Saturday; a sign, Kathie Ponder said, of how important the project is to the kids. After refining their hammering technique a bit, the scouts made short work of assembling the bat houses.
During hot dogs and Doritos, there was time for rumination.
‘Bats are endangered species and we need to save them,’ said Jake Froman, 10. Froman didn’t know if he liked bats. ‘I never saw one before,’ he said.
While some houses would stay at Hayswood, Froman and other scouts planned to take a house home. However, Froman wasn’t sure if he would check his for bats.
Reid Morgan had fun hammering, he said, as he sat on a shelter house rail, swinging his feet while holding a hammer in each hand. He’ll be able to see his bat house from the back window.
Reid learned that bats eat mosquitoes.
Reid’s mom, Cub Master Lori Morgan, learned quite a few things, too, but, she still couldn’t provide an answer to the age-old question: What’s a Webelo?
At first, it looked as though the houses would be strictly extracurricular with no merit badges being earned, but after further deliberation, Mr. Lance decided the project was worth of a craftsman badge.
Kathie Ponder may not be finished helping winged friends. She plans to retire from scouting next spring when her cubs graduate to the boy scouts, and she is thinking about founding a chapter for the Sierra Club in Southern Indiana.
Other participants in Saturday’s project were helpers Dave Williams and Larry Mays and scouts Brandan Williams, Jake Williams, Brenden Ponder, Bryan Mays, Justin Stepro and Nick Conrad.