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Taking a better look at bats

McLain State Park program clears up misconceptions

June 29, 2012
By Brandon Veale - DMG Sports Editor ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK TOWNSHIP - There's a lot of things people get wrong about bats.

That's what 8-year-old Lance Motowski and his sister, Leah, 6, learned Wednesday afternoon at McLain State Park.

"A lot of people say bats are blind," Explorer Guide Zach Eckert said during an exploring nature program, "Now is that true?"

Article Photos

McLain State Park Explorer Guide Zach Eckert shows a bat specimen to brother and sister Lance and Leah Motowski during a “Go Batty” program at the park Wednesday afternoon. (DMG photo by Kelly Fosness)

Shaking their heads "No," Eckert agreed.

"That's not true at all," he said. "They have poor eyesight but they're not blind."

Lance and Leah, along with their mother Denise Landsberg, of Houghton, were the only ones who attended the 3 p.m. "Go Batty" program at the park Wednesday. Temperatures topped out in the mid-80s in the shade beneath the main picnic shelter where Eckert opened with a short story and followed with a brief quiz.

"So are bats mammals, or are they birds?" he asked.

When Lance replied correctly, "mammals," Eckert explained that bats, in a lot of ways, are similar to humans.

"We have hair, we have teeth, we're warm-blooded ..." he said.

Open to campers and day-visitors, the exploring nature program is a statewide program offered at dozens of Michigan state parks and recreation areas. At McLain State Park, programs are held once a day, Tuesday through Saturday, and topics vary from agate hunts and nature hikes to insects and plants.

"The focus is to get people outside and interested in nature," Eckert said.

Campers and day visitors can find the exploring nature program schedule near the booth at the entrance of the park or on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website (

Eckert shared fascinating facts about bats during his program, including information about the nine different species in Michigan, typical life span, size and weight. Of particular interest for Lance and Leah was that the little brown bat, the most common species in Michigan, can eat 3,000 mosquitos in one night.

"That adds up to about 5 ounces," he said. "The normal size of a little brown bat ... weighs 9 ounces so it can eat over half its body weight in one night."

Next Eckert led the family in what he called "Bat Olympics" activities, during which they compared their heartbeat to that of a bat by flapping their arms up and down for a certain period of time.

Before the program came to a close, Eckert shared two bat specimens encased in clear containers for the three to get an up-close look at their features.

"So you can see, he's a pretty small guy," he said while holding out the clear plastic tube. "See, there's his toes. Can you see his little toe nails? That's how they hang from trees."

For more information about the exploring nature program at McLain State Park, call 482-0278 or visit,4570,7-153-10365-84526-,00.html.



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