The town of Dawson in Fayette County, Pa., is nicely situated—it’s along the Youghiogheny River, not far from Connellsville, with a railroad running along the town side of the river. On summer nights, however, the town receives some guests its residents wish would go home after they’re done feasting—thousands of bats.
The residents don’t actually mind the bats. They know the bats are eating up bugs and that they’re a good part of our ecosystem. They just don’t want them staying in their houses afterward.
Sierra Club Allegheny Group member Kris Gunnarson pointed out the problem to a Sierra Club email group. Kim Metzgar of MAKC, also a Sierra Club member, saw the message. While no caves were involved, cavers like to help protect bats, and this sounded like a win-win situation because the residents of the town already knew the value of bats. Possibly, another coincidence, because this was the hometown of the grandparents of caver Jim Kennedy, who happens to work for Bat Conservation International?
Anyway, MAKC had received a Huplits grant for the Hesston gate project, which, as another article in this issue noted, turned out to be a less extensive project than we originally thought. We received permission from the Huplits committee to redirect the grant monies toward the purchase of bat houses to be erected along the river in the town of Dawson. Given that treasurer Sue Moore is a member of BCI, BCI’s connection to the town via Jim (who is also a MAKC member), it seemed only logical that MAKC purchase the houses from BCI. Knowing that it’s not always easy raising money for a non-profit group, it also felt good helping out an organization as worthy as BCI. Sue also took advantage of her member discount to add a little more bat house for our buck.
MAKC had allocated purchase of one house from our Earl Biffle Bat Fund, and with the grant monies we were able to purchase an additional ten bat houses for the town. We decided on multiple, smaller bat houses, aimed at holding about 200 or so bats each.
Kris Gunnarson has been working with Jay Nelson, a member of the Dawson Borough Council, on the bat project. Kris and Jay are pursuing the idea of working with PennDOT on determining if a bridge rehabilitation project in town can also include accommodating bats on the bridge, much as the famous bridge in Austin, Texas, does.
Sue Moore coordinated with Jay Nelson on the bat house shipment, which will be sent and stored to Jay in the town. Jay will coordinate purchase of the posts for the houses, which will be installed this spring. Jay is also working with residents of the town to block off their attics so when the bats come out of hibernation and return to the town in spring, hopefully they’ll turn to the bat houses for a place to stay. Jay also had a few bat houses built for the project.
So, there will be at least twelve, possibly more bat houses, to install in the town in spring.
MAKC would like to get involved in the installation, since we’ve been involved in most of the other steps in the process. Local residents wishing to volunteer on the bat house installation, please email Kim Metzgar at firstname.lastname@example.org. The date hasn’t been determined, but email will probably be the fastest method of alerting members to the bat house project. Digging tools will be required.
And, by the way, the artwork on this issue’s cover relates to the Dawson Bat Project. Kris Gunnarson had that really cool tshirt design created to help raise money for the project. The artwork notes the railroad, the Youghiogheny River bike trail, one of the churches in town, and, of course, the bats. Members wishing to support the project by buying a tshirt can contact email@example.com. At presstime, pricing information was not yet available, but Kris is pursuing having the tshirts made.
By Kim Metzgar