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Medfield Residents Learn About Bats

Scientist John Foster, also known as "Bat Man," spoke at the Medfield Public Library Tuesday night.

There are no bats in the Medfield Public Library according to a certified wildlife biologist who studies the mammals.

On Tuesday night, scientist John Foster presented a 90-minute program that culminated at the town gazebo with an electronic bat detector.

“There are no bats in the library’s attic, I checked earlier,” he told a gathering of children and adults as they anxiously waited for bats to appear.  But to no avail.

Foster entertained 25 people with slides of different types of bats, and showed the audience a display of stuffed bats and a bat skeleton.

 “There are three kinds of bats in our area: the red bat, the silver-tipped bat, and the hoary bat,” he said. 

Foster is a wildlife biologist who specializes in bats, particularly hibernating bats.  He said that most bats hibernate in abandoned mines and caves, and mainly in western Massachusetts.

He also shared other interesting facts with the eagle-eyed group:

-          Bats are highly social and extremely intelligent

-          Bats use their vocal cords to ‘eco-locate’ to “hear” their food

-          Red bats like to hunt over water for “the abundance of bugs”

-          Long-eared bats like the forest and can eco-locate insects on leaves

-          Bats hang right-side-up when giving birth

-          Bats can live 15 to 20 years

-          The weight of a bat is the equivalent of two quarters

-          Hibernation season is approximately October to late May

-          Bats like particular places: Research shows that a colony of tagged bats lives on Cape Cod then travels to a mine in southern Vermont to hibernate

-          Bats have a very small skeleton and can squeeze into a small space the size of an adult finger

Stephen Pease, 8 of Medfield, liked the bat skeleton.

“I liked how tiny the body was,” he said while his twin sister, Megan, learned that some bats have fur.  “We thought they just had skin,” said their mother Lisa adding, “I thought it was interesting to learn about the different types of bats that live in Massachusetts and where they live and how the females gather together…And seeing the skeleton gives you inside on how small a bat actually is.”

Katherine Munz attended the program with her sons Alex, 6, and Drew, 2. 

“I loved it. I thought it was fantastic and I’m actually not as terrified about bats anymore,” she said.

Foster also said debunked a common misconception that bats are related to mice.  He said that bats are very much like humans.  He noted many similarities like: they five fingers, give birth to live babies (not eggs), provide babies with food and milk, and have a long lifespan.

One child asked about bat predators.

Foster said bat predators include raccoons, foxes and other animals that can attack them while they are hibernating, but said that other factors are can be detrimental to bats like having bad teeth so it can’t eat, having a broken wing so it can’t escape danger, having a mother bat that doesn’t know how to properly care for its cub, or having a particular disease like White Nosed Syndrome (a deadly fungus).

Foster said that, if you find a bat, it is best to leave it alone and “let nature take its course.”  He said if the bat has to be moved, you should use gloves or a shovel to push it to the side.

Some audience members were interested in building bat boxes.  Foster said the boxes should be high off the ground and in the sun because bats like to be warm.

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