A freak accident caused a fire at the Patch of Heaven Sanctuary in the Redland back in May. The new, almost-completed bat house was supposed to be a roosting spot for hundreds of thousands of bats, including the critically endangered Florida bonneted bat. The structure was almost ready for bat habitation when it was struck by lightning.
Fortunately, bats hadn't started roosting there yet, so none were harmed in the ensuing fire.
"The bat house was meant to give these species sanctuary, and it burned down, but now we're on to bigger and better," Hubbard tells New Times.
This summer, Patch of Heaven started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the new construction project, with a funding goal of $200,000. On top of that, the nonprofit hopes to bring in donations with Adopt-a-Bat.
Visitors who donate $15 or more via the sanctuary's website to rebuild the bat house and support conservation efforts will be afforded the opportunity to name their own bat. Hubbard says the names will be recorded on the website, so those who adopt one can search their bat's name and see how the critter is doing.
The Adopt-a-Bat page already has some helpful suggestions for possible bat names, including "Batilda," Elizabat," "Sebatstian," and "Bob."
Hubbard says those who donate and adopt a bat will also be invited to bat walks as a token of appreciation. On the walks, visitors are taken around the property with echo meters that tell them what kind of bat is flying past based on the sound of the clicks the bats use for echolocation. The walks are normally done in person but will soon be done virtually owing to COVID-19.
Hubbard hopes more people can learn about bats and their benefits to the environment by participating in the Adopt-a-Bat program, as well as through the various educational programs Patch of Heaven plans to offer when it has a rebuilt bat house and a new rehab center.
"Bats are so important to our ecosystem. One bat can eat 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, acting as a kind of pest control. People don't appreciate the environmental work they do on our behalf," Hubbard says. "Also, they're pretty cute."