Titled "Bats, Bugs & Bark! Fall Hike," the offering will feature ongoing activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with one of its main highlights being Vicky Beckham Smith's presentation on bats from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. As a wildlife educator with A-Z Animals, Smith delivers more than 100 similar programs a year to about 4,500 people.
"I want to teach them how important our bats are to us environmentally," said Smith, who also will bring fruit bats to Saturday's program. "They actually fill an ecological niche for us. They eat thousands of insects a night.
"One little bat can eat up to 600 insects an hour and typically they hunt about five hours a night. So one little bat is eating 3,000 insects a night. So in [looking at] all of our bats, we have 16 species in Georgia and all of our bats are insect-eating bats."
In her programs throughout the year, Smith finds that youth are constantly fascinated by bats, from their nocturnal habits and diet to their anatomy and having adult-sized feet from birth, enabling them to hang upside down at an early age.
"What I teach the kids is the three P's about bats and that's how bats are important to us and our environment," Smith said. "The first P is pest controllers. The second P is that they're pollinators. The ones that drink nectar actually pollinate plants just like our bees and butterflies and hummingbirds do during the day. Then the third P is planters and those are the fruit eating bats. They're actually planting new seeds either by dropping them as they munch on the fruit or spitting the seeds out as they fly along or [through excrement] ... I do try to teach the kids that our bats here in Georgia are excellent pest controllers but other bats throughout the world are also important in their own little niche for what they do for humans."
Smith's wealth of knowledge on the subject of bats will be invaluable for the Fall Hike, said Marina Robertson, executive director for The Pettit Preserve.
"Most bats, it's hard to find them in the wild unless you have them in your attic, but you're not going to see and be able to get in close contact with them," Robertson said. "They're very shy. So Vicky coming and bringing her fruit bats will give us a hands-on and a much more in-depth look at bats than we would have if we were just looking at books."
Along with participating in youth-oriented bat activities and viewing the site's bat house, the public also will have the opportunity to tour The Pettit Preserve, which is usually available to visitors by appointment only.
Situated off Highway 61 in southwest Bartow County, the 70-acre forest and lake ecosystem features three trails totaling less than 2 miles in length, a swinging bridge, a 9-acre lake and an amphitheater. The Pettit Preserve was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation in 1999 when the late Gay Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres of property to this endeavor.
By appointment only, The Pettit Preserve tailors educational programs, such as tree identification and water testing, to youth groups throughout the year. During the 2009 to 2010 school year, about 750 children visited the site, the majority of whom were in pre-K to seventh grade at Cartersville or Bartow County schools.
For more information about The Pettit Preserve and its upcoming program, visit www.pettitpreserve.org or contact Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-848-4179.