Here’s the latest from BEEPS – Peachland’s Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society!
Tim Stubbert (owner of Peachland’s Ace Hardware) and local entertainer / innkeeper Keith (Papa) Thom had some fun while making sure a new sign is perfectly hung at the Peachland Visitor Centre recently. Thanks to Darlene Hartford and the BEEPS team for sharing these pics!
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 on a Friday afternoon in December (and laughing, because it was only 4 p.m. and yes, it’s getting dark then!)
“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.
Heidi and I also spoke about the upcoming virtual gala that was successfully planned by Peachland’s Economic Recovery Task Force on Dec 4, 2020. BEEPS was one of the four locals groups who benefitted from the event proceeds (a little over $12,400!), which will go into ensuring these groups can continue on with what they give back to the community.
“The undertaking has been enormous,” said Slyngbom of the gala-related planning (she was on a couple of committees.)
“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.”
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 email@example.com to double check!
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.
BEEPS – related news stories: