Take the family to Bat Fest: Learning promises to be fun

By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs. Destination

Bats are amazing, not to mention cute – well, at least the stuffed cloth toy versions!

So, let’s deal with that irrational fear you may have of them. Learn all the good things about bats and maybe reserve a spot on a cave tour to see their habitat. All this and more will happen during the Family Bat Fest planned for Saturday, July 21, from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m. at the Wauzeka Village Hall, 213 East Front Street in Wauzeka. It’s southwest of and in the Prairie du Chien, Wis., vicinity.

The Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC) is hosting the event. And now I’ll let MVC tell you about the Fest, turning to information found online at www.mississippivalleyconservancy.org/events/family-bat-fest.

Nature-lovers of all ages are invited to attend Family Bat Fest, a day of discovery about the beneficial role of bats and the importance of protecting their native habitat.

The event will be held at the Wauzeka Village Hall where presentations by bat ecology experts, educational activities, and live bats will be shared to help the public better understand and appreciate the world’s only flying mammals.

With advance registration required, a limited number of guided cave tours at Kickapoo Caverns – the Conservancy’s protected bat hibernation site – will also be offered during the event. Family Bat Fest is one of Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s Linked-to-the Land events, sponsored by Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare of La Crosse.

Due to declining bat populations in North America in recent years, scientists have conducted research and helped to create public awareness of bats, their beneficial role in ecosystems around the world, and what can be done to protect them. Of particular concern is white-nose syndrome (WNS), a debilitating fungal infection that disrupts the hibernation of bats. Attendees at Family Bat Fest will have an opportunity to learn more about bats and what can be done to protect them.


Among the special guest presenters at Family Bat Fest will be Jennifer Redell, conservation biologist / cave and mine specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). In her roles at the WDNR, Redell has provided consultation to Mississippi Valley Conservancy with regard to its protection of bat habitat on its recently-acquired Kickapoo Caverns property. Redell will speak on bat ecology and will include live bats. Her “Bat's LIVE!” presentation will be repeated to allow cave tour attendees to see and hear it before or after their tours.

A detailed schedule of the presentations is available on the registration page. Activities offered at Family Bat Fest will include the Wheel of Conservation, Bat Lunch Box Discovery, and the Echolocation game.

The above-mentioned presentations will all take place at the Wauzeka Village Hall. They are all free of charge. Advance registration is required due to limited seating capacity. Click for online registration.

Cave tours

A special feature of Family Bat Fest will be a limited number of guided tours of the cave at Kickapoo Caverns, a nature preserve protected by MVC. Due to the sensitive nature of the cave and for safety reasons, the cave tours will be limited in size and number. Advance registration is required.

Those registered to tour the cave will be transported by bus to and from the site, a few miles from Wauzeka. Due to parking and conservation restrictions, no private vehicles will be allowed on the Kickapoo Caverns property.

There is a registration fee for the cave tours: $15 for adults and $10 for youth (ages 7-16). Details regarding times, accessibility considerations, and certain restrictions are available at the online registration site.


In support of its conservation mission, MVC has offered nature education and outreach programs for more than 20 years. As the new owner and conservator of the Kickapoo Caverns nature preserve in Crawford County (Wis.), the Conservancy now has the opportunity to guide visitors through the property’s huge limestone cave. Home to three bat species, the stunning limestone cave includes underground pools, a 40-feet-high cathedral-like chamber, and beautifully-colored stalactites.

As winter home to several threatened bat species, the cave is available for tours only by special arrangement with MVC during an eight-week period each summer. The limited number of tours offered at Family Bat Fest are the first to be offered to the public since the Conservancy’s acquisition of the property in 2017.

Sign up today

Family Bat Fest attendees are encouraged to bring water, snacks and lunch if they intend to stay all day. There is a gas station/convenience store next to the village hall. This is a rain or shine event, and most activities will be conducted indoors. Special access considerations and requirements for clothing and footwear of cave tour registrants is available on the online registration site.

Here is the online registration site: www.eventbrite.com/e/family-bat-fest-tickets-46125931904. It also offers more details on the cave tours, such as the temperature below ground, the agility and stamina level needed by a person, and regulations on items worn in other caves. The registration web page also lists presentation times and topics, including Geology of the Lower Wisconsin River, Cave Formations and What They Tell Us,” and of course – more bat info!!

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for about 15 years.