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Bloomfield Hills

June 18, 2014

Take a summer stroll with bats at Cranbrook

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Forget about Halloween — at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, it’s the summer that’s going to the bats.

Starting Saturday, the institute will introduce new summer tours to complement the museum’s Bat Zone. The tours will be held at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and at 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through the end of August.

In addition, the museum will host Friday Night Bat Walks outside at dusk. Guests can follow bat experts around Cranbrook’s beautiful 300-acre grounds and see live bats, living in their natural habitat, emerge from their daytime hiding places and come alive as the sun goes down.

Rob Mies is the executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, a nationally known group based at Cranbrook. He said the Friday Night Bat Walks will be a great time for visitors of any age, for several reasons.

“What’s great about Cranbrook is that some of it, I think, is still quite rustic as far as wooded areas. We’ll take people down by the water where there’s a beautiful pond and lake, and kind of watch as bats emerge out of the forested areas,” said Mies. “The bats love the wooded areas, and also the gardens, too. They love feeding along the water and the edge of the woods and around the gardens. It’s just a really nice, open-air experience with these live bats flying around; sometimes, we might see 10-20 in just 20 minutes.”

The Bat Zone serves not only to entertain families as part of the museum’s overall natural science experience, but also to engage visitors and promote the importance of bats in our ecosystem.

“Bats in Michigan only eat insects, and they’re the primary predators of (nocturnal) insects. Bats are really important both economically and ecologically to help control insects, and there are a lot less bats around, partly because there are more people and less space for wild animals,” Mies explained.

In addition to loss of their natural habitats because of development, bats are becoming scarcer around the state because of the recent increase in cases of white-nose syndrome, a white fungus that causes bats to wake too many times during their winter hibernation, resulting in starvation.

“We don’t have as many bats around anymore, and the more you learn about them and understand them, the more ways you can help protect them in our area,” said Mies.

The tickets for the daytime bat tours, as well as the Friday night walks, are $5 each and can be purchased by calling the Cranbrook Institute of Science front desk.

Stephen Pagnani, head of communications for Cranbrook, said the nighttime tours are just another way the Cranbrook community is looking to introduce new families and regular visitors to all of the programs they have to offer — inside and out.

“The bat walks in the summer are a great sort of addition to the summer lineup of programming. What’s really interesting about the bat walks is, for people who haven’t seen more of the campus besides the museums, is that it takes you around the lakes and gardens and woods, which are extensive and really interesting,” said Pagnani.

For more information, contact the Cranbrook Institute of Science at (248) 645-3200 or visit science.cranbrook.edu. The museum is located at 39221 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills.

Learn more about the Organization for Bat Conservation online at www.batconservation.org, including ways bats help the environment and how to save bats with homemade bat houses and by planting wildflower gardens.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.