Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a Junior Ranger in honor of National Bat Week on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the Oconaluftee Administration Building. Junior Ranger programs are designed for youth between the ages of 5 and 12, but all are welcome. This program is free and open to the public.
The park is home to 13 species of bats including the recently discovered gray bat, the federally endangered Indiana bat, and the federally threatened northern long-eared bat which was added to the list in February 2017 due to declines caused by White Nose Syndrome. Bats play a significant role in maintaining ecological balance as the primary predators of night-flying insects. Biologists estimate that an individual bat can eat between 3,000 to 6,000 insects each night including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes.
Youth between 8 and 12 years of age may sign up for an additional activity, from 10:30 a.m. until noon, were they will have the opportunity to build their own bat box to take home. Supplies will be provided. The program is limited to 20 participants and spaces will be filled on a first come, first serve basis. Directions for building a box at home will be provided.
National Bat Week runs from Oct. 24-31. For more information about bats please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/dff10-wns.htm.
– National Park Service release