Bats, a traditional symbol of Halloween, are fascinating and helpful — and not at all scary.
Mike Johnson, chief of natural resources for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, shared these interesting facts about the misunderstood flying mammals:
* Park biologists have documented nine species of bats in the Metro Parks, including big brown, little brown, tri-colored, silver-haired, northern long-eared, red, hoary, small-footed and Indiana bats.
* The classic Halloween image of a bat is a silhouette flying across a full moon. Bats actually do not like moonlight because it makes them visible to predators.
* Bats use hiking trails for the same reasons we do — they are well-marked and easy to travel. And on trails, bats do not have to dodge trees and the canopy overhead helps protect them predators.
* The wing of a bat is an evolved hand and fingers, meaning bats literally fly with their hands.
* In October, bats swarm in front of their hibernation caves and rock ledges and engage in mating and courtship rituals.
“Bats are hugely beneficial because they eat a lot of agricultural pests and save farmers billions of dollars annually,” explained Johnson.
The naturalist on duty in the visitors center at F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm (1828 Smith Rd., Akron) is available to answer questions about bats and other wildlife. Regular center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 330-865-8065 for more information.