Bats: Their Lives and Lore
Master Wildlife Conservationist
June 8, 2021
Few of nature’s creatures have
acquired such an undeservedly bad reputation as the bat, native to our
world for the past 55 million years. Speaking to 20 Y’s Men of Meriden
by Zoom on June 8, Maureen Heidtmann, Master Wildlife Conservationist
with the CT Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection, provided a
PowerPoint review of this remarkable animal.
Bats are mammals, found throughout the
world with nine species occurring in Connecticut. To dispel some common
myths: bats are not aggressive toward humans, do not get tangled in
ladies’ hair, are not blind (indeed have excellent eyesight), are rarely
rabid (less than 0.5% frequency), can fly during the daytime, and
maneuver in flight by echolocation (small bats) and eyesight (large
Bats are greatly beneficial, providing
pollination in rain forests, seed disbursal in forests, and pollination
for over 500 plant species, as well as pest and disease control. At
Bracken Cave in Texas, some 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats each
night consume 140 tons of insects!
Bats vary in size from two grams (like
a bumble bee) to flying foxes (wingspan up to six feet like an eagle).
Their “wings” are actually mammalian arms and hands, with a membrane
between the long “fingers” to allow for flight. After a winter
hibernation (hanging upside down to save energy), they reproduce in
springtime, generally having a single pup. Using echolocation (high
frequency sounds emitted through the mouth or nose, and received back by
oversized ears), they can avoid obstacles and predators while looking
for food; they are also able to “talk” to each other (including a
specialized “baby talk” from mother to pup).
Our local bats are in trouble.
Challenges include predators (domestic and feral cats, snakes, hawks and
owls), windmills, habitat loss, and sticky flypaper. And white-nose
syndrome, a serious fungal infection appearing on the nose, wings and
bodies and killing over seven million bats since first appearing in
America in 2006. It is thought that bats with WNS die during hibernation
due to disruption of their thermo- regulatory system and excess activity
leading to depletion of fat stores and eventual starvation. Or they may
leave their protected home in search of food, resulting in death from
courtesy of Jack Brooks)
Northern long-eared bat
Little brown bat
White Nose Syndrome
Swift Silent Deadly
- Marine Recon
May 25, 2021
you’re a US Marine inside a steamy jungle in Vietnam, moving silently
through marshy terrain on a 5-man Recon mission, when gunfire erupts,
killing two and severely wounding another two of your comrades – what to
do? Speaking by Zoom to 24 Y’s Men of Meriden on May 25, Norman VanCor
described this and other experiences revealed in his recently published
book “Swift Silent Deadly”, written after his 70th birthday.
Deployed to Vietnam from 1968-1969 in
the 3rd Marine Division, VanCor served with the elite 3rd Reconnaissance
Battalion as a radio operator with Company C. He participated in 14
recon missions averaging 5-7 days each, looking for downed American
pilots needing rescue or enemy bunkers, and carrying radio equipment, an
M-16 with 25 magazines (8 rounds each) and five canteens (to avoid
drinking iodized swamp water). The five Marines walked slowly and
quietly off trail (“man, did we hate walking in water”), speaking only
in whispers and not at all during nighttime, while trying not to lose
The five men shared one tent and had to
quickly learn to move and think as a single entity. They constantly
rehearsed numerous “what if” scenarios. VanCor explained that this
training provided him confidence in later civilian life, as a senior
executive with Connecticut Light and Power and Yankee Energy System,
Inc. in Meriden, with a “Plan B” always available.
from a jungle mission
mission, VanCor’s company was ambushed by the enemy; two Marines were
killed and two others critically wounded, leaving only VanCor uninjured
(with his radio equipment destroyed by gunfire in the encounter). As
enemy troops closed in, he killed one causing the rest to scatter back
into the jungle. He then carried the wounded men leapfrog style
(repeatedly carrying one forward, then returning for the other) about
250 meters through hostile territory to the helicopter landing zone,
signaling with a mirror and smoke canisters. VanCor was awarded the Navy
Cross, along with other awards, for his heroism.
Published Nov. 2020
Eastern Coyotes in Connecticut
May 11, 2021
latrans (a.k.a. coyote) is a wild animal to be feared, right? Wrong.
Speaking to 28 Y’s Men of Meriden by Zoom on May 11, Paul Colburn,
Master Wildlife Conservationist and avid outdoorsman, presented a slide
program on the habitat, diet, behavior and reproduction of eastern
coyotes in Connecticut.
Not native to North America,
coyotes first populated the American Midwest centuries ago, but expanded
their range into New York by the 1930’s and were first spotted in
Connecticut in the 1950’s; today, they number 4000-6000 in the state and
populate every town. But they have a bad (but undeserved) reputation as
being evil and sneaky, resulting in one being killed every minute in
America. Actually, they are mid-sized predators that hunt small game for
survival but who avoid humans and quickly retreat when encountered.
In general, coyotes are not
a threat to humans. In the past century in North America, only two human
deaths have been reported: a child in America and a small woman in
Canada, despite millions and millions of encounters between the two
species. Coyotes live 5-7 years and range up to 10 miles in Connecticut.
Primarily carnivorous, they will also eat berries, apples and acorns.
But their primary meat diet comes from small rodents and rabbits, along
with occasional domesticated cats (keep them inside at night), chickens,
sheep and pigs.
Unlike bears, coyotes form
true family units, mating for life. After breeding mid-winter followed
by birth of about seven pups in springtime, they soon are taught hunting
skills by their parents; months later, they are gently “dispersed” out
of the nuclear family to make room for the next birth cycle and to form
their own families. And some advice for humans: never let pets run loose
at night, never feed coyotes (to avoid habituation), secure all garbage
cans, and watch for erratic behavior (possibly a sign of rabies).
Bracing for the Worst: Climate Change and Accelerating
of Mosquitoes and Ticks
Research Scientist, CT Agricultural Research Station
April 27, 2021
and mosquitoes – not our best friends to say the least. Presenting by
Zoom to 29 Y’s Men of Meriden on April 27, Goudarz Molaei, research
scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and Yale
School of Public Health, outlined the worsening population of these
A major cause of the expanding density
and range of these parasites can be traced to global warming. Human
illnesses in America have risen from 27,000 to 91,000 annually in the
past three years. Climate change has caused these vectors of human
diseases to increase in density, with involvement of wider human
populations. Warmer temperatures result in longer seasons of mosquito
and tick activity with increased overwintering survival, increased
reproduction ability, extended distribution range and survival at higher
altitudes. Additionally, increased temperatures result in increased
For mosquitoes, increased
precipitation leads to an expanded quantity of breeding sites. Commonest
in America are the Asian Tiger mosquito and the Asian Bush mosquito.
Globally, hundreds of millions of humans have been infected by these
parasites with Malaria, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.
In America, Eastern Equine Encephalitis is the most pathogenic
arthropod-borne disease with a 40% mortality rate; in Connecticut, it is
especially concentrated in the southeastern part of our state.
Asian Tiger mosquito
Lone Star tick
The Lone Star tick and the American
Dog tick, concentrated along the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Cape
Cod, have been the chief tick parasites in this country. But newcomers
have arrived; the Asian Longhorned tick, first discovered in New Jersey
in 2017, has now spread to 15 states and has become a serious livestock
pest. And the Gulf Coast tick, proliferating along the Gulf and
southeastern Atlantic coastlines, was first identified last year in our
state, to which are added “hitchhiking” ticks from Africa and South
A Census Deep Dive into the
U.S. Census "Door Knocker"
April 13, 2021
not a job for the faint of heart; you might get arrested and handcuffed
by the local sheriff. Addressing 31 Y’s Men of Meriden by Zoom on April
13, Jerry Monaghan, recent Census Bureau enumerator (a.k.a.
“door-knocker”) used a PowerPoint show to relay his 48 days’ experience
in rural districts of Louisiana and Georgia, where he worked to gain
personal information from mostly Black households in the Deep South.
During the 2020 Census, Monaghan,
retired from an active multichannel career as co-founder and former
president of the Association of Bridal Consultants as well as teaching
design and practicing marketing for the Army Reserve for more than a
quarter century, answered a call for Census workers, initially working
in New England. Counting America’s population (currently 330 million)
relies on armies of workers. But on 24-hours’ notice, Monaghan was
abruptly transferred to rural Louisiana and later to Georgia, a 48-day
Working 10-hour days first in the LA
community of Jones (population 250) and city of Monroe and following
COVID guidelines, breakfasts were obtained at local McDonald’s and other
meals at local diners, while lodging was at local dwellings as hotels
were not open. On one occasion, a sheriff arrived following reports that
an unknown White man was in the area asking questions. Monaghan noted
that while a few residences were nice, the majority reflected the deep
poverty of these mostly Black families. Using GPS to locate some homes,
as a federal employee he could ignore “No Trespassing” signs, query a
neighbor if no one responded at the home, and note that fines up to $500
could be levied for refusing to cooperate. One resident, citing COVID
risks, warned Monaghan to “Stay back, I’ve got it”.
Louisiana mobile home, desperately in need of repair, with a new
Infiniti SUV parked outside
Adjacent, competing Baptist churches in Louisiana
With less than 24 hours’ notice, he
was transferred to Tifton, Georgia, a 12-hour drive. Most residents were
quite friendly, but again severe poverty was prevalent. At one
residence, the entire front yard was coated with empty beer cans. Common
answers to what happened to your mailed census form included, “I’m too
busy”, “I did it online”, “I didn’t trust it”, “too much snooping” and
“you’re a government worker”.