“Up to a 6-foot wingspan:” Wisconsin Bat Festival is coming to the Mitchell Park Domes 🦇

MILWAUKEE -- You know the phrase "blind as a bat?" It's inherently inaccurate. Bats can actually see just fine. This is one of the many things experts hope to teach folks on Saturday, August 26th when the Mitchell Park Domes hosts the Wisconsin Bat Festival for the first time.

Wisconsin Bat Festival

"This is a Malayan Flying Fox. This is the biggest bat species in the entire world," said Rob Mies, Organization for Bat Conservation, Co-Founder. "They're from Southeast Asia and in the wild, they have up to a six-foot wingspan."

The Wisconsin Bat Program, in partnership with the Mitchell Park Domes, is focused on the vital role of bats as pollinators, seed-dispersers, and insect-eaters.

"In movies they're always seen and talked about as vampire bats, but in reality, this is a fruit eating bat," said Mies.

Wisconsin Bat Festival

"So you can see her moving her mouth. And that noise you hear from the detector is her echolocating," said Jennifer Redell, Wisconsin DNR, Conservation Biologist.

With programs and activities planned throughout, it's a chance for all ages to learn about these nocturnal creatures -- the only flying mammal in the world.

"She's got a thumb and four fingers, just like our hand," said Redell.

Wisconsin Bat Festival

"They eat tons of insects, they pollinate plants, they spread seeds. They're economically and ecologically important, and people don't know it," said Redell.

One of the most important topics of the day will be the race to save North American bats from potential extinction from white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease. In 2016, reports indicated that the disease was starting to decimate the state’s bat populations.

Wisconsin Bat Festival

"Because of white-nose syndrome, we're seeing a 95% to 99% decline in our little brown bat population, meaning those animals are critically threatened," said Redell.

Earlier this week, the North Shore Health Department confirmed that two bats captured by residents tested positive for rabies -- something that bat experts say is actually quite rare.

"Very, very few bats carry rabies less than half of one percent of the wild bat population carries rabies," Redell said.

And if a person or pet does come in contact with a bat...

"First off, assess did it bite anybody? Is there any chance that somebody came in contact with it? If there is, call animal control so that somebody can come out, capture the bat and have it tested for rabies just in case," Mies said.

The Wisconsin Bat Festival runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, August 26th -- with a special science night and bat talk led by experts outside from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.