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Parents looked closely and children's eyes widened as Northern California Bats' founder Corky Quirk used two live bats to educate in Old Sacramento Saturday.
Quirk brought a Mexican Free-Tailed bat and Big Brown bat to Trail Mix, a store selling outdoor merchandise and projects for children and adults. About 40 children, parents and adults attended the event, and about 20 more trickled in after to see the bats.
"It went really well with standing room only," Quirk said. "People were really quiet, which really surprised me, but they stayed a long time, which says something to me."
Quirk said she wanted to help people understand the importance of bats, what they do for the environment and dispel fears and myths.
"My favorite part was the Big Brown bat," said Allison Barlow, 7. "I like the color of the fur on top."
Sacramento residents are most likely to come in contact with the Free-Tailed bat. A large colony lives under the Yolo causeway, Quirk said.
"They'll eat a variety of insects but their favorite insects are moths," Quirk said. "They're really important for our crops, and we have an awful lot of farmland around here, so that's a big job."
"Everybody liked it when the bats were eating," store owner Mike Barlow said. "There were lots of oohs and aahs. Everyone got to see the bats up close."
Quirk has been working with bats for six years. She began working in the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area's educational programs. She became intrigued by the bat program and mentored under the woman who operated it. The woman quit, and Quirk took her position. She began with wildlife rescue and has expanded into educational programs. Quirk averages one educational visit or program per week.
Quirk founded Northern California Bats three years ago. According to its website, it is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of bats throughout Northern California. The organization says that bats found injured or orphaned should not be touched and asks people to call so a trained volunteer can retrieve the bat and care for it.
"It's the opportunity for me to come in contact with people," she said. "I do wildlife rescue, and over the course of a year we might have a couple hundred bats that come through. But I know I can save a lot more when I get the opportunity to come and talk to people because there are so many fears out there with people. When we don't understand something, we tend to do the wrong thing."
For more information on Northern California Bats, visit their website.
1) Trail Mix exterior.
2) The Free-Tailed bat.
3) The Big Brown bat.
4) Quirk shows the free-tailed bat to visitors.
5) Quirk educates visitors on local bats.
Agnus-Dei Farrant is an intern for The Sacramento Press.