Local Bear Den Cub Scouts this month undertook a project to improve local bat populations, constructing 12 bat boxes with the help of Hammond Lumber. Scouts left to right: Owen Pierce, Saer Preston, Lucas Barrett, Lucas Johnson, Kimberly Bragg, and Emmett Morse. Back row, Downeast Coastal Conservancy’s David Dowley, den leader Shannon Johnson. Submitted photo

To save the bats, Cub Scouts build houses for local nature preserves

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

With a helping hand from Hammond Lumber, the Bear Den of Cub Scouts Pack 125 recently constructed brand new bat houses to be installed in local nature preserves. Cub Scout Lucas Johnson, 8, said the idea for the boxes came to him after reading a school library book. His mother and den leader, Shannon Johnson, suggested they turn it into a scout project.

Lucas is happy with the results.

“I’m glad that we made bat houses because it increases their population and decreases the bug population,” said Lucas. “Bats are good for the environment.

Johnson asked Hammond Lumber for help and said the business went above and beyond, supplying not only the materials, but a place to work, and free instruction, too. “This project would not have happened if it wasn’t for Hammond,” said Johnson.

At the Hammond workshop, the scouts constructed 12 boxes — six to be installed at local nature preserves, and six to be installed at their homes.

Bat boxes are designed to provide roosting places for bats in locations where there are few roosting sites. Hibernating bat populations, especially Little Brown Bat populations, have been seriously impacted by a fungus called white-nose syndrome. A study published in Science estimates that insect-eating bats save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year in pest-control measures. One million little brown bats, a fraction of the number lost since the discovery of WNS, can eat between 660 and 1320 metric tons of insects each year, according to a report compiled by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

Now that the bat houses are built, they will soon be installed in local preserves owned by the Machias-based Downeast Coastal Conservancy.  DCC Membership and Outreach Director Cathy Lookabaugh said she’s delighted the scouts recognize bats are a species of concern.

“These bat houses can be very useful in providing secure roost sites for bats and the hope is that by increasing habitat they would be helping bats survive. Bats provide a number of benefits to humans and the environment,” said Lookabaugh. “It has been a very fun experience and very educational learning from the scouts and the research they have done.”

DCC board member David Dowley was thrilled to get the call from Shannon Johnson.

“The bat house project aligns with DCC's mission to conserve land and promote our relationship with the natural world,” said Dowley. “The scouts reported that Brown Bats will be the likely inhabitants of our houses, are endangered, and are important because they eat mosquitoes and help with pollination.”

In addition to adding bat houses to your property, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife says there are many steps Mainers can take to support our bat populations. First, the state urges people not to handle live or dead bats, and to leave living bats undisturbed if they are found in your house or barn. Instead, allow them to rear their pups and exit the structure at the end of the summer before closing off any entrance holes, and provide bat houses for when they return the next year.

Also, do not enter caves or mines in Maine during the winter hibernation months. Disturbing bats during hibernation causes them to use limited fat reserves and could cause mortality in already health compromised bats. Also, humans can carry WNS fungus from an infected site and contaminate uninfected sites. 

To learn more about bats in Maine, visit www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/species-information/mammals/bat.... To learn more about the Downeast Coastal Conservancy, visit https://downeastcoastalconservancy.org/, and to learn more about Scout Pack 125, visit https://www.facebook.com/BSATroop125.

 

Members of Scout Pack 125’s Bear Den are hard at work building bat boxes during a free workshop provided by Hammond Lumber in Machias. Photo courtesy Shannon Johnson

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