Bats Need Homes, Too Students Hang Bat Boxes at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
Bats Need Homes, Too
Students Hang Bat Boxes at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
Bats: flinch-inducing terrors or misunderstood cruisers of the night? Whatever your outlook, students of Amy Gerhauser’s Environmental Art course at St. Edward’s University are learning the value of creating homes for the winged mammals. After learning that bat populations are diminishing, the students decided to create “bat boxes,” to meet the course’s requirement—to select and build an artificial habitat.
The students recently hung their bat boxes from rafters of the outdoor pavilion at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, which serves as an interdisciplinary laboratory of St. Edward’s University to promote environmental education, research, conservation and preservation.
“Bats are really tremendous creatures who have acquired this connotation of being dirty, rabid beasts, yet they are quite vital to a vast array of ecosystems,” says Brandon Goodwin, a junior Art major at St. Edward’s enrolled in the course. “They are tremendous pollinators and provide a balance to the influx of mosquitoes and other insects.”
Gerhauser says that the decline in the number of bats is due to pollution and habitat encroachment and destruction. She also acknowledged that they are “feared by some, which can lead to intentional destruction.”
Working in small groups, the students constructed the boxes with plywood and coated them with a water-based sealer. Bat boxes must be 2 feet tall and include grooved partitions for the bats to grab onto and have an opening at the bottom for them to fly in and out. They must be hung at least 10 feet above the ground, near a water source and away from trees or buildings that could obstruct their flight path. Lucky for bats who make their home in Austin: most prefer a roosting chamber between 80 and 100 degrees.
Gerhauser, a local artist and sculptor, began working with Wild Basin several years ago on site-specific projects for students. The projects were a hit with students who loved working in a “natural, non-landscaped space.” Students will be back periodically throughout the semester to see if their bat boxes have attracted “tenants.”
“Wild Basin is a wonderful resource for the academic and larger community,” says Gerhauser.
Want to install a backyard bat house of your own? Bat house plans are available on the Bat Conservation International website.
Wild Basin’s gate is open every day from light to dark. Trail maps are available in the map boxes outside the building.