Turns out that bats speak to each other as individuals.
Every time we learn something new about the natural world, it makes me realize just how little we know. Given that fact, it’s awfully arrogant of us to act so superior and proprietary. How can we walk through this world with such confidence and act upon it with such haughty indifference when we don’t really have a clue as to what’s going on beyond our ken or how our actions impact said goings on?
It seems that thanks to some voice recognition software, researchers have determined that bats not only speak to each other as individuals, using different tones of voice, but they also have matched up certain sounds to certain actions. Predictably, they argue about food and their positions within the sleeping cluster, and invasions of personal space. But they also discuss males that make unwanted mating advances. In other words, they’re not all that different from us.
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Some of the most gorgeous cave formations on the planet.
No cameras. No cell phones. No food, no drink, no gum or tobacco products. No backpacks, no strollers, no walkers. Have you worn your shoes inside any other cave? If so, you can’t come in. You could introduce white-nose syndrome to our community of 1000 bats. And you can’t touch anything. Your body oils could stop the formations from growing. This is a living, growing cave.
Okay, now you pass through an air lock. This keeps the humidity within the cave at 99%, as opposed to the typical 0% of the Sonoran Desert above. Without this moisture, the cave stops growing. Sure, its formations generally only grow an inch every 750 years, but still, that’s progress.
Next, you pass through an air curtain that blows the lint off your clothing. Lint may not seem like much to you or me, but with all this tourism, it adds up. Then you pass through a hall of mist, to once again combat that lint.
It was all rather intimidating, but well worth the effort. Because after that, you’re treated to about an hour of some of the most gorgeous cave formations on the planet. Kartchner Caverns. Stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, columns, draperies, spar crystals, flowstone, helictites, shields, and cave bacon galore. Golds. Reds. Browns. Whites. A feast for the eyes.
It was hard not to touch. It was hard not to jump over the railings to go exploring. It was hard to grasp the immensity of the formations. One of the columns is 58 feet tall. (At an inch every 750 years, that’s… a heck of a lot of years.)
What kept me respectful was the immense amount of effort it took for people to protect this cave. I strongly suspect such a monumental secret could never be kept in this day and age, but after Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen found this cave in 1974 on land belonging to the Kartchners, they all managed to keep it a secret for another 14 years. But they decided that the best way to protect the cave, oddly enough, would be to develop it. (Let’s face it: if there’s money involved, people take things seriously.) But it was beyond their means, so they approached the governor of the State of Arizona.
Another thing that wouldn’t happen today: the massive amount of behind the scenes political maneuvering it took to turn this place into a state park. Even the state legislature was kept in the dark until the final vote on the bill, because everyone knew that if the information went public, the next thing you knew, the cave would be covered in graffiti and beer cans. So the bill passed in 1988, and Arizona had its park.
And how lucky the public is that this treasure is being preserved so conscientiously. If you ever get a chance, visit these caverns. You’ll be so glad you did. And while there, rejoice in the fact that a vast majority of this cave has still never been touched by human feet, and hopefully never will be.
Since I couldn’t take pictures myself, here are some from the internet, plus one cool photo of a mural we saw in town.
Don’t get me wrong. I like bats. They’re great for the environment. I just don’t want to be roommates with them.
After several late night visits from bats inside my house, my house, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t live like that. Bats flying around my head at 3 a.m., landing on my pillow, barricading myself in my bedroom and being afraid to get up and go to the bathroom… It just got to be too much. I refuse to be a prisoner in my own home.
Don’t get me wrong. I like bats. They’re great for the environment. I just don’t want to be roommates with them. Especially if they’re not paying rent, and refuse to conform with my sleep cycle.
Despite the fortune I spent on contractors last year in an effort to solve this problem, these furry little rats with wings had taken up residence again, just as they probably have been doing for years on end. So it was time to serve them their eviction notice.
Thank goodness I’ve got someone who loves me enough to have my back, because I couldn’t have done this alone. We spent hours up on my roof, reinforcing the blockages I had imposed last year, and adding more. We put rigid walls of hardware cloth around all six of my mushroom cap vents.
I was hoping that hearing all that activity, and realizing that the sun was setting, the bats would take advantage of the thing we were saving for last: Their batty little front door, also known as the poorly done flashing around my chimney, and the badly constructed flue to my fireplace. (Two thumbs DOWN to Riasat Ali, also known as Al, of Arcon Chimney, for his shoddy workmanship and deceptive quote.)
But no. Instead of leaving the premises, they simply stayed in the attic and chittered and squeaked until we were finally forced to block them in, where they’d most likely starve and die. We couldn’t work in the pitch black on a pitched roof after they left. So block them in we did.
But it was killing me. Hearing them scream. Knowing they’d suffer. I couldn’t stand it.
So as we finished up, I closed my dog Quagmire into the back yard. Then I went into the house and turned off all the lights. I then left the front door wide open, and opened the inside access panel to the attic. Then I went outside and watched them fly out my front door, one by one.
It made me shudder, thinking of them streaming through my living room like that. But at least they’d live to eat mosquitoes another day. And I wouldn’t bear the guilt of having them suffer a slow and painful death. That’s got to count for something, right?
After leaving my house exposed to nature until 2 a.m., I reluctantly poked my head into the attic with a flashlight, and all was quiet. I heaved a sigh of relief. No hellfire for me. Not that night, anyway.
Later, I heard a bat hit my bedroom window. From the outside, for a change. The next day I told my boyfriend it was probably a bat protesting his eviction. He had a different theory. He thought it was a bat thanking me for saving its life.
Yeah. I can live with that spin.
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Thud. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…
That’s what I heard. On my bed.
Thud. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…
That’s what I heard. On my bed.
I figured it was just the dog, so I didn’t even open my eyes. I settled back in, wrapping my arms around said dog, who was on the opposite side of the bed from the sounds.
That sure made me open my eyes. But slowly. Because I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to like what I saw. And I didn’t.
It was a little black bat, fluttering on the pillow next to mine. For a few seconds, I tried to convince myself that it was a really big moth. I could live with a moth. I could fall in love with a moth, given the alternatives. But no. It was a bat.
Everything happened really quickly after that. I jumped up, screaming. This freaked out the dog, who bolted from the room. (Some watchdog he turned out to be.) It also freaked out the bat, who proceeded to fly around my head. This, of course, made me run from the bedroom as well, slamming the door behind me.
Okay, good. The bat was trapped in the bedroom. I could take a moment to figure out what to do. First, close the hysterical dog in the bathroom, so I could prop open the front door. And then turn on every single light in the house.
Now it was time to turn around and release the bat. Except, I didn’t have to do that. Because the little b*****rd had squeezed himself under the crack of the door and was already flying into the living room to join me.
We had a moment, the bat and I. I was screeching and dancing in my jammies, he was doing an acrobatic pirouette, all around my head. (I bet it looked kind of artistic, from an emotional remove, with the mute button on.) Then he darted out the door, back into the night.
So, yeah, that happened. After I spent more than a grand last year getting the bats out of the attic and replacing all the insulation, then spending days blocking what I thought were their only entrances into my house.
I’m not having a good day. It’s bad enough when this country already feels askew because of the political shenanigans in the white house. Now I get to wonder if I’m going to have unexpected visitors in my home. Everything suddenly feels out of control. Forget parallel universes. Just stop tilting this one, please. I need my rest.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one sleeping in my car all summer.
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