Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
Select this button stylePrint Friendly

Thousands enjoyed the first Minnesota Bat Festival at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Jill Utrup/USFWS.

Thousands enjoyed the first Minnesota Bat Festival at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Jill Utrup/USFWS.

Tom, a Malaysian flying fox, was a big hit at the Minnesota Bat Festival. Photo by Jill Utrup/USFWS.
Tom, a Malaysian flying fox, was a big hit at the Minnesota Bat Festival. Photo by Jill Utrup/USFWS.

First Minnesota Bat Festival– A batacular success!

Visitors poured into the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center on August 19, 2017, for the first (and, we hope, annual) Minnesota Bat Festival. An estimated 3,000 people attended over the course of the day, one of the largest turnouts for an event at the visitor center on record.

The Organization for Bat Conservation worked with refuge staff and Minnesota/Wisconsin Field Office staff to plan the event. Partners from other refuges, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, Minnesota DNR and the University of Minnesota helped with staffing, offering a variety of batty educational activities to visitors.

Drawing the biggest crowd were the live bats that Rob Mies and crew from the Organization for Bat Conservation brought with them, including Tom, the Malaysian flying fox, one of the world’s largest bat species.  Rob and his colleagues offered an hourly live bat show in the visitor center auditorium that was filled before every show, with lines forming early for the next show!

The overriding goals of the festival were to dispel some of the common myths surrounding bats, talk about all the benefits that bats provide to us, and explain how we can help bats and how we’re learning more about them. Educational activities and talks helped spread the message.

In addition to seeing bats up close, visitors were able to experience being a “bat scientist” by counting bats in the bat cave, tracking bats to their roosts, and learning about the latest in acoustic monitoring and white-nose syndrome research. Kids of all ages had their faces painted like a bat, made bat crafts, explored the bat cave, and participated in bat yoga. In addition, 400 to 500 people also came to “Science Night” after the daytime event to experience bat surveying and learn how bat acoustic and mist-net survey equipment is used by bat researchers.

It seems that people have strong reactions to bats; they either love them or are very leery of them. After this event, we hope that for those who already had an appreciation for bats, this was a chance to see these beloved winged creatures up close and learn more about them. For those who were not quite as fond of bats to begin with, maybe some myths surrounding the creatures were dispelled and they gained respect for them.

Jill Utrup, Minnesota/Wisconsin Field Office
and Judy Geck, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Last updated: June 8, 2020