By TODD GLASSCOCK
PARKER COUNTY – Tuesday afternoon artist Sarah Kennedy daubed in grass growing around a tree in a forest mural she’s been painting this past week at the new Bat World Sanctuary outside of Mineral Wells.
“It’s an enrichment item,” Kennedy said of the mural that stretches full-length along the walls outside the mesh inner flight enclosures at the new sanctuary at 501 Highpoint Road.
Kennedy, who flew in from New York this week, also volunteers with Bat World and illustrated founder Amanda Lollar’s children’s book, “Baby See-through.”
The forest looks like the perfect place for a bat to take flight, as are the inner flight enclosures, Lollar said. The new facility will serve as the bat rescue, rehabilitation and conservation group’s new home base.
Lollar said bats are worth rescuing because they are essential to the ecology, eating, for instance, insects that attack crops.
Once finishing touches are added to the new sanctuary, the bats the group is caring for now at their downtown Mineral Wells sanctuary will come to their new home in the next two to three weeks, she said.
The new facility will house a 42-foot by 36-foot flight area that will give healthy and rehabilitating bats space to experience an outdoor-like flight while still protected inside when, during temperate weather, 14-foot bay doors are opened. The doors will be covered with security gates and transparent zoo mesh to protect the bats and the sanctuary from mice and other critters.
Skylights and sun tubes will enhance the experience and provide natural light year round, she said. Additionally, the new facility will feature a bat rehab and recovery room, a kitchen and food preparation area as well as a shipping hall and offices.
Along with a new sanctuary, where they can heal and fly, the bats will have a “bat castle” where they can hang from the rafters, or if they are territorial males, make a stay ensconced in private nooks, she said. Within a few years up to 150,000 area bats should be living in the new habitat, once new bats begin to fly in.