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More than 200 bats move into downtown Pontiac

brown bat with white nose syndrome
Ryan Von Linden
New York Department of Environmental Conservation
A little brown bat shows symptoms of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that's decimated bat populations in Michigan.

No, this isn't the beginning of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

The bats belong to the Organization for Bat Conservation's new education center, known as the Bat Zone, which opens this weekend

Executive Director Rob Mies says the move to Pontiac from their former space at the Cranbrook Institute of Science means there will be more space for animals and visitors. The bats the organization takes care of are all orphaned or injured — and many hail from much warmer locales — so they won't be flying over downtown Pontiac.

But the new building will also be the center of a nationwide research project on the lives of urban bats.

That project could help scientists combat white-nose syndrome. The fungal disease is decimating Michigan bat populations in more rural areas.

"But the city bats are doing much better. They're faring far better," Mies said. 

He hopes learning how urban bats live can help researchers understand how to help rebuild bat populations everywhere. And he says that Pontiac residents and Bat Zone visitors will get to play a role in that. 

In addition to building bat houses and growing plants that attract the kinds of insects bats love to eat, they can also take part in a citizen science acoustic monitoring program.

"What that is, is using electronic devices to pick up the bat's echolocation at night, so doing bat walks throughout the city," Mies explained. 

While bats are often portrayed as creepy and vampiric, Mies says they actually make pretty great neighbors. Each bat can eat thousands of pesky insects every night — like mosquitoes or garden-destroying moths.

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