• Hunter Cresswell

Giving the gift of bats

Bats have gotten a bad rep this year.

Chelsea Elementary School third grader Bella Smith next to a bat house that she and her classmates built. Photo courtesy Keri George

They’ve been the butt of insensitive jokes about how the COVID-19 pandemic started with tainted bat meat being sold in open-air meat markets, but they’re a very important part of the local ecosystem as most Hill residents know all too well.

If you hate mosquitos and other bitey bugs, which plague the region throughout the warmer months, then you should love bats because they love to eat those pests.

To help out our winged allies, and the community, Chelsea Elementary School donated two student-built bat houses to the Meredith Centre.

“Each classroom assembled a three-chamber bat house with the help of Jefferson Drost, a local bat specialist and wildlife expert,” wrote Chelsea Elementary School Home and School Association representative Keri George in an email to The Low Down.

The idea was for Drost to install all 11 bat houses – think birdhouses for bats – that the students built around the school’s grounds. But COVID-19 hit and the school changed its plans to comply with health regulations and concerns. So the Home and School Association, which sponsored the program to build the bat houses, decided to donate two to the Meredith Centre and sell the rest, George wrote.

“To date, four houses have been purchased via the Home and School Association Facebook page. The donation of two bat houses to the Meredith Centre seemed like an obvious way for the school community to give back to the larger Chelsea community, while also shedding some attention on the importance of bat conservation. As for the remainder of the bat houses, the school still intends to install them once things get back to normal,” she wrote.

Meredith Centre director general Daniel Bérubé said he’s never seen bats around the centre, but will be happy to once the bat houses are donated and installed.

“We thought [bats] would be a good learning tool for the curriculum,” he added about the forest school that uses the centre as a homebase.

Bérubé said that he, too, has fallen prey to the notion that the winged rodents are something to be feared.

“I saw them as vampires or getting in your hair, but they’re good for the environment and eat a lot of pests,” he said. “I’m probably going to learn a lot from this.”

George said the bat houses will be officially donated in early January. Two bat houses are still for sale for $150 each through the Chelsea Elementary School Home and School Association Facebook page.

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