HELENA — ExplorationWorks in Helena will host the world premiere of “Soar With Bats” on Saturday, June 12. The science museum was closed a few days leading up to the debut while they prepared for some new residents. Some might shriek at their sight, while others are simply batty about the 20 live seba short-tailed bats.
The species is common to Central America and are important pollinators for their region. No one needs to worry about the seba short-tailed bats wanting to drain them dry, well unless they’re a piece of fruit. Natural grocers are donating the helpless victims (fruit) to feed bats all summer.
Soar With Bats is the brainchild of Aaron Cleveland. The exhibit is more than just bat science. It also features human-bat cultural connections through science, culture, folklore, mythology and pop culture.
“In this exhibit, we have everything from batman to music,” said Cleveland. “We’ve got a necklace from Papua New Guinea that is a symbol of wealth that has flying fox teeth on it. So we’ve got different things people should get excited about besides just the live bats. There’s plenty to do and plenty to interest you.”
There’s even a display that shows the evolution of the wooden kind of bat, and how the Louisville Slugger company cares for the forest where the wood is harvested from.
Soar With Bats was supposed to be last year’s blockbuster exhibit for ExplorationWorks, but was canceled when COVID shut down the country.
Exhibits & Facility Director Matt Jetty says the staff is thrilled to provide this opportunity for families.
“We had summer camps last year but we weren’t open to the public so this is the summer where we have summer camps and we’re also open to the public and it feels good. It feels good when people are in it and a brand new exhibit that people have never seen before,” said Jetty.
With the new exhibit also comes extended hours. Beginning June 12, ExplorationWorks will now be open weekly from 10:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
ExplorationWorks is following current CDC guidelines for museums and they are requiring masks for visitors over the age of 3. Staff also strongly recommend people reserve a time online to make sure they are able to see the bat when they arrive and not have to wait until capacity allows for more people to enter.
The museum also recognizes that some people find bats creepy while others find them to be cute. All the live animals are kept in a safe enclosure and there won’t be any human-bat interactions. Staff also hope the exhibit can help dispel some myths and misconceptions about the flying mammals.
There are 15 species of bat that live in Montana ranging from the tiny western small-footed myotis to the larger hoary bat.
All bats that live in Montana are insect eaters, although the pallid bat — which migrates to Montana in the summer months — are important pollinators for columnar cacti and agaves in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts,
The best time to see a bat is around dusk where there is an abundant supply of insects for them to feed on. Bats in Montana help keep insect populations under control, including eating bugs like mosquitoes that carry diseases that are harmful to humans.
If you see a bat during the daytime do not approach it. It is very rare for a healthy bat to be active during the day and the animal could be infected with rabies. People should keep pets away and call animal control so authorities can have the animal tested.
ExplorationWorks is at 995 Carousel Way in Helena. Click here to visit the website.