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It was bat day at the park - the winged variety

July 25, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - Bats were the theme of the day for children visiting or camping out Saturday at Cowans Gap State Park.

Under the supervision of park naturalist Beth Garner, children could make bat masks, bat magnets and bat pictures in the Brightbill Interpretive Center at the 1,085-acre park in Fulton County. An abundance of printed information on bats also was available.

The children later played bat games and attended workshops on "How a Bat Compares to Me" and how to put a bat box together to welcome bats to their neighborhood. A bat box is similar to a birdhouse and is used by bats to roost during the day, Garner said.

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At dusk, Garner and participants planned to watch the park's resident bat colony emerge from its roost near the amphitheater to forage for mosquitoes and drink from the lake.

"We have a colony of about 1,000 bats, but I think it may be more this year," Garner said.

The very warm spring and early summer helped bat pups thrive, she said, as did the abundance of food.

"Little brown bats, the kind we have here in the park, eat 600 mosquitoes per hour, and they make three to four hour-long trips per night," Garner said.

Brothers Blake Frain, 8, and Grant Frain, 5, sat at a table making bat magnets. They were camping in the park with their grandparents, Landis and Katie Frain of Waynesboro, Pa. Grant saw the bats emerge when they visited the park last year, Katie Frain said.

"He was fascinated," Katie Frain said. "He loved them."

"I liked them flying," Grant said.

Twins Marissa and Madison Rishel, 5, of McVeytown, Pa., also worked on various bat crafts. Marissa said she never has seen a bat, but that she would "go tonight and watch." They were camping with their grandmother, Tina Sward of Lewistown, Pa. Sward helped the girls cut the thick foam for the bat magnet.

"The bat is the only mammal that can fly," Garner said while snipping eye holes in a bat mask. While other mammals may have "flying" in their name, such as the flying squirrel, they actually glide; they don't flap their wings like a bat.

The park has free public programs throughout the summer, mostly on weekends, Garner said.

The cabins, picnic shelters and dam at Cowans Gap were built in the 1930s by men in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

About 20 miles from Chambersburg, Pa., Cowans Gap has a man-made lake, campsites, 10 rustic cabins, hiking trails, boat rentals and picnic pavilions. Picnic areas, campgrounds, cabins, parking, restrooms and fishing piers are handicapped-accessible.

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