Bats of the Ozarks (FBCEC)

Summary:

Explore the world of the only true flying mammal. Participants will learn characteristics of bats commonly found in the Ozarks. An echolocation activity will help them understand how a bat locates its food in the dark.

Grade Level:

K - 12

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484

Duration:

45 minutes - hour

Suggested Number of Participants:

15 - 40

Objectives:

  • Describe characteristics of bats.
  • Recognize the role of bats in our ecosystem.
  • Dispel fears and myths about bats.
  • Discuss ways to preserve bats and their habitat.

Key Terms*:

Echolocation

Ecosystem

Endangered

Hibernation

Indigenous

Migration

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Bats of Arkansas poster

Bat house example(s)

Bat trading cards

Blindfold

Clicker or noisemaker toy

Bat diagram or model

Background:

Few animals are as misunderstood as the bat. However, they are some of our more beneficial creatures, consuming vast numbers of insects. Sixteen bat species are indigenous to Arkansas, and three are endangered: the Indiana bat, the gray bat and the Ozark big-eared bat. All three live primarily in the Ozarks, the only area of the state with many caves.

Procedure:

  1. Challenge participants to name mammal characteristics, reinforcing that bats are mammals. Write them on the marker board.
  2. Show a bat diagram or model. Discuss unique characteristics of bats as they examine the diagram. Include nonphysical characteristics such as echolocation, hibernation and migration.
  3. Using the Bats of Arkansas poster, discuss the species most commonly found in the Ozarks. Mention the 16 species that call Arkansas home and show corresponding mammal cards or photos. Discuss the habitat needs of bats. Almost all of the 16 species live in the Ozarks, including three endangered species: the Indiana bat, the Ozark big-eared bat and the gray bat. Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, Southeastern bat and the Brazilian free-tailed bat are less likely to inhabit the Ozarks.
  4. Help participants to understand the nature of bats and their role in our environment while generating interest in conservation. When their habitat is disturbed, the bat population can decline. If bats are disturbed during hibernation, they often expend extra energy and must leave hibernation early in the spring to search for insects not yet present. When maternity colonies are disturbed, bats will often abandon the colony, and the young often will die. Another concern is insecticides, which decrease and contaminate the food supply.
  5. Display bat boxes and discuss why bats should be our neighbors. For instance, bats consume many mosquitoes and other insects we consider pests such as cucumber beetles. The cucumber beetles (known as corn rootworms) cost U.S. farmers one billion dollars yearly. Optional: Distribute plans for building bat boxes.

Modifications:

Echolocation:

  • When a bat searches for food, it emits high-pitched sounds that bounce off surrounding objects. As it echoes, the bat can determine if it is dinner or not. This activity will simulate a bat using echolocation to find its food. Ask the participants to form a circle as a boundary. Place two volunteers in the middle. One volunteer will be the bat and the other will be the insect. The bat and the insect each get a clicker, and the bat will be blindfolded. Mention that bats are not blind. The blindfold simply represents the low light conditions of nighttime hunting. Next, ask the bat to click once, and instruct the insect to click in reply. The bat will try to move toward the sound of the click. The insect may walk out of the bat’s path but must stay within the circle. The bat may bump the participants forming the circle, if this happens, the participant should remain quiet and gently tap the participant back into the circle. The bat will continue to click and listen for the reply of the insect until the bat captures or tags the insect. When captured, the insect should buzz to let the bat know it has caught the prey.

Bat Report:

  • Allow participants to research and report on a bat species native to the Ozarks.

Review:

  • List several unique physical and/or behavioral characteristics of bats.
  • Cite reasons for declines in many bat populations.
  • Name three endangered bat species.
  • Why are bats more common in the Ozarks than other parts of the state?
  • What are the benefits of bats in your neighborhood?
  • Define echolocation and explain how bats use it to find food.

Resources:

Glossary:

Echolocation – system used by dolphins, bats and other animals to locate objects by emitting high-pitched sounds that reflect off the object and return to the animal's ears or other sensory receptors

Ecosystem – plants and animals interacting with each other and their physical environment

Endangered (species) – an organism at risk of extinction throughout all or most of its range

Hibernation – an inactive state resembling deep sleep in which certain animals living in cold climates pass the winter; body temperature is lowered and breathing and heart rates slow down; protects the animal from cold and reduces the need for food during the season when food is scarce

Indigenous – living naturally in a particular area

Migration – the regular, periodic movement of an animal population from one area to another, usually because of a change in temperature, food supply or the amount of daylight, and is often undertaken for breeding; mammals, insects, fish and birds migrate