Maureen Heidtmann
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).

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 exposure.

(Review courtesy of Jack Brooks)

Northern long-eared bat 

Little brown bat 

White Nose Syndrome

Norman VanCor
Swift Silent Deadly
Vietnam Veteran - Marine Recon
May 25, 2021

So, 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 their bearings.

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.

Returning from a jungle mission

During one 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

Paul Colburn
Eastern Coyotes in Connecticut
Master Wildlife Conservationist
May 11, 2021

Canis 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.

Eastern Coyote

Coyote pounce

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).  

Goudarz Molaei
Bracing for the Worst: Climate Change and Accelerating Invasion Potentials
of Mosquitoes and Ticks

Research Scientist, CT Agricultural Research Station
April 27, 2021

Ticks 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 disease-carrying parasites.

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 biting frequencies.

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 America.

Jerry Monaghan
A Census Deep Dive into the South
U.S. Census "Door Knocker"
April 13, 2021

It’s 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 adventure.

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”.