A bat hibernates in a cave. (Courtesy Photo | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

A bat hibernates in a cave. (Courtesy Photo | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Glacier sends up bat signal with weekend activities

Arts and crafts, scavenger hunt celebrate the more-cute-than-spooky winged mammal

Just in time for Halloween, the U.S. Forest Service will celebrate National Bat Week at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center this weekend.

Youth-oriented activities and crafts will take place upstairs in the visitor center from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Friday through Sunday, Oct. 26, 27 and 28.

Far from being a spooky, blood-sucking threat, bats do not pose any real danger to humans, said USFS employee and Bat Week organizer Ellie Kirkwood. They provide what scientists call “ecosystem services,” acting as gardeners and pollinators around Juneau, Kirkwood said.

“Bats are important to ecosystems and are not something to be afraid of … they’re not vampires,” she said.

[Fish and Game wants citizen scientists to turn their cars into batmobiles]

Seven different bat species call Juneau home, Kirkwood said. In other part of their range, bats act as pollinators. But in Juneau, they play a different role in the ecosystem.

“They’re insectivores,” Kirkwood said. “So they’re eating pests that would otherwise damage agriculture or cause disease in the forest system.”

Their scat, called guano, is also a rich fertilizer, Kirkwood said.

Advocating for the furry flyers has become more important as bat populations have dwindled in the U.S. in recent years, Kirkwood said. A bat-targeting disease called White Nose Syndrome has spread from the East Coast into the Northwest, killing about 6 million little brown bats since 2006, Kirkwood said. It hasn’t yet been spotted in Juneau, but local scientists are keeping an eye out for signs of its spread.

For kids, Bat Week activities include arts and crafts for kids of all ages. Attendees can also participate in a scavenger hunt with prizes, Kirkwood said.

Experts will also be on hand to teach adults about managing their property to best accommodate bat habitat, Kirkwood said.

The Forest Service will also have its bat monitor equipment available for free check out. The monitor allows citizen scientists to listen to and record the ultrasound frequencies bats make. Those with the monitor are asked to gather data by driving on at least one of two different routes around town with the monitoring equipment attached to their car.

[Citizen scientists needed to track bats]

When spotting bats at the glacier recreation area, the best bet is to visit the Steep Creek Trail at sunrise or sunset. The USFS has installed an ultrasound recorded there.

“You want to be looking for bats at dusk or dawn, is your best bet,” Kirkwood said.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and kgullufsen@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 22

David Holmes digs through a pile of boardgames during Platypus Gaming’s two-day mini-con over the weekend at Douglas Public Library and Sunday at Mendenhall Public Library. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Good times keep rolling with Platypus Gaming

Two-day mini-con held at Juneau Public Library.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau man indicted on child pornography charges

A Juneau man was indicted Thursday on charges of possessing or accessing… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Juneau’s municipal and state legislative members, their staff, and city lobbyists gather in the Assembly chambers Thursday meeting for an overview of how the Alaska State Legislature and politicians in Washington, D.C., are affecting local issues.
Local leaders, lawmakers and lobbyists discuss political plans for coming year

Morning meeting looks at local impact of state, national political climates.

This photo shows pills police say were seized after a suspicious package was searched. (Juneau Police Department)
Police: 1,000 fentanyl pills, 86 grams of meth seized

Juneau man arrested on felony charges.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Captain Anne Wilcock recieves the Emery Valentine Leadership Award at the 2022 CCFR awards banquet on Saturday, Jan. 14. (Courtesy Photo / CCFR)
CCFR honors responders during annual banquet

Capital City Fire/Rescue hosted its 2022 awards banquet earlier this month as… Continue reading

A resident and his dog walk past the taped off portion of the Basin Road Trestle after it suffered damaged from a rockslide earlier this week. The trestle is open to pedestrians, but will remain closed to vehicular traffic until structural repairs are made, according to city officials. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Rocky road: Basin Road Trestle open to pedestrians, remains closed to vehicles

City officials say repairs are currently being assessed after damaging rockfall

Most Read