BEEPS

If Peachland had a mascot, would it be a bat?

Those winged insect-eaters – who make their summer home in Peachland’s historic school house attic, have become quite popular over the past few years, thanks to BEEPS – the Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society.

Since forming in 2015, the group has accomplished a lot: Peachland is one of only three communities in BC who are officially designated as being bat friendly; Last year, we hosted our first-ever conference of bat experts and enthusiasts, and in 2021, an exhibit from the Kelowna Museum is expected to bring more attention to why preserving the bat population is so important.

“What we’re doing is a lot of awareness of who we are and what we represent,” says Heidi Slyngbom. We met outside just as the sun was setting last Friday (and laughing, because it was only 4 p.m. and yes, it’s getting dark then!)

Heidi Slyngbom is the president of BEEPS

“Basically, it’s all about the bats – dispelling the myths, and providing education about bats and the value that they have within Peachland,” Slyngbom says, adding that all their fundraising and grant money goes right back to programming and maintaining their equipment in the attic, which allows visitors to see what’s going on inside the roost.

There’s an estimated 2,000 bats who live in the historic schoolhouse attic (explains why we don’t have many mosquitoes all summer!) And when the bats leave in winter, the local fire department cleans out their droppings, which makes for an excellent garden fertilizer.

Slyngbom says BEEPS, like any other group in Peachland, is pivoting to these times, but that’s hard to do without the money that comes from doing events – namely the annual Rubber Ducky Race, which was cancelled in April, and will likely not happen in 2021 either.

“We’re not taking a chance with all the expense and the man hours and labour involved,” she says. Plus, other groups, such as the Peachland Sportsmen’s Association (the guys who are in hip waders catching those errant duckies), have their own challenges and she doesn’t want to take their time away.

Everyone is a volunteer, says Slyngbom, and that’s why she’s especially touched to see how the Peachland Recovery Task Force has worked together to bring this Friday’s Virtual Gala to light. BEEPS is one of the four locals groups who will benefit from the event proceeds, which will go into ensuring these groups can continue on with what they give back to the community.

“The undertaking has been enormous,” says Slyngbom of the gala-related planning (she’s on a couple of committees.)

“And I have to tell you, the unity with all the people working together, collaborating with their expertise in different areas, being able to meld it altogether – there’s so many people behind this, and lots of hours in meetings. And it’s going to be phenomenal.”

You can get your tickets, too. Basically, it’s a fun night in, with family-friendly entertainment via an exclusive Zoom feed. You can feel free to browse the silent auction, or even make a donation to the group of your choice.

It’s all appreciated, Slyngbom says.

“So many organization have been hurt this year. And so the gala is all about coming together. It’s about the sharing of expertise, thoughts, ideas, challenges and making this the best Christmas gala we can do under these challenging times.”

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BEEPS’ summer students were busy this year! From the left is  Kaylene Eytcheson, Michael Shearwood, Jackson MacPherson and Natalie Rehberg. BEEPs president Heidi Slyngbom, and Lynne Herrin, Janet Hornseth and Cheryl Evans from the visitor centre / art gallery also joined in on a nature walk earlier this year.

What did the students work on? The Bat House Interpretive Trail – a 1km loop along Trepanier Creek that connects with other walking trails in the woods – is expected to be popular. These students are happy to share what they know about our local bat population – information on bat shelter, food and life cycle are displayed along the trail, and they’ll also be reminding people about social distancing when necessary. The Interpretive Trail is also a pleasant self guided walk for all ages, abilities and dogs. To make a guided tour reservation or to pick up a trail map, head over to the visitor centre at the Peachland historic school. They’re now open, but check their Facebook page, call (250) 767-2455 or email info@visitpeachland.com to double check!

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And here’s some general info about BEEPS!

Did you know Peachland is one of only three official bat-friendly communities in BC? It’s because of the work of BEEPS! Founded in 2015, BEEPS has the good fortune of being the caretakers and advocates for the little brown bats which have roosted for decades in the attic of Peachland’s historic yellow schoolhouse. Estimated to be around 2,000 strong, our town’s bat population is a maternity colony, comprised mostly of females and their pups. Through their educational programs BEEPS has become a provincial leader in managing and spreading the word about bat health, preservation, and maintaining their habitat. BEEPS’ Bat House interpretive trail has become an interesting way to enjoy a walk, with information displays about bats and their importance to our ecosystem. The group’s bat counts have also become a unique summer tradition. Visitors gather at the schoolhouse just before dusk. When the bats leave their attic roost to feed on the insects that hover over Okanagan Lake, the totals are counted and recorded as a way to keep track of the population.

Check them out on Facebook or their website.

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BEEPS – related news stories:

Oct. 27 Bats need better lighting – and a green roof would help too, says BEEPS

Nov 10 “I made a mistake”: After protest from local groups, Mayor wants staff to look again at BEEPS’s bat exhibit plan

Written by Kristen Friesen

May 25, 2020

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