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Eagle Scout project looks to help local bat population

Boy Scout Nick Patterson of Sanbornton will be installing bat houses he designed and built as part of his Eagle Scout project with Troop 82. The houses will be placed at five town-owned locations in Sanbornton, and 15 others are being made available for residents who would like a chemical-free solution to mosquitoes and other insects. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
October 05, 2011
SANBORNTON — Eagle Scout Badge candidate Nick Patterson of Sanbornton made a presentation of his final Scouting project to selectmen last week, outlining his plan to boost the bat population in town, which would also help in the control of mosquitoes and other pests the mammals feed upon.

In recent years, bat populations in New Hampshire and other northeastern states have been affected by white nose syndrome. By providing suitable habitat for the tiny winged creatures, Patterson said he wants to help their population grow stronger, and hopefully help cut down on mosquito-borne diseases like Eastern Equine Encephalitis and the West Nile Virus.

"I've made five bat houses for town buildings, and I have 15 more for residents who would like one," Patterson said.

He explained the wooden structures are designed to attract the small brown bat, with slotted chambers within the house where they can sleep during daylight hours. Because they then need to drop out of the house to take flight in the evening, the houses must be placed eight to ten feet off the ground.

"I stained them a dark color because it will help them to stay warm. Once they find a house like this, they'll look around and 'tell' other bats about it," said Patterson.

Each of the structures can support a colony of up to 100 bats. In a flyer prepared for his project, Patterson said a colony of that size could consume 2,200 pounds of insects in a summer.

Selectmen were excited about the project, thanking him for donating five of the houses to the town and offering suggestions on potential locations where a bat house could be useful.

Chairman David Nickerson and Selectman Guy Giunta thought the safety building with the nearby pond would be a good spot, and Karen Ober thought the town park could benefit from one also.

"With all the concern over mosquitoes, it would make good sense to put a bat house out there," she said.

Other ideas discussed were to place them at the elementary school, town beaches and other places where people gather regularly throughout the warm months, when mosquitoes are prevalent.

Nickerson asked that Patterson meet with Public Works Director John Thayer to finalize locations and arrange for the installation.

A member of Boy Scout Troop 82, Patterson is a senior at Winnisquam Regional High School, and said his motto has become, "Save the bees, save the bats." Both creatures play vital roles in the environment, and are currently struggling with survival. Because of a rising interest to utilize organic and chemical-free methods to deal with pests, bat houses seemed like a logical solution to Patterson. He attended a class on how to build the houses at Squam Lakes Science Center and found he liked the idea as an Eagle Scout project, which must benefit others and involve the community.

"After (going to Squam Lakes), I decided I was going to make this happen. I made a couple of slight changes like staining the outside and got to work," said Patterson.

With donations coming from Lowes, Home Depot, Boulia-Gorell and Uncle Hilde's Lumber, he then organized his troop to help build the 20 structures.

"They helped pre-cut the pieces and screw them all together. We were able to get two houses out of each sheet of plywood," he said.

Patterson's father, Andy, said he himself is an Eagle Scout, and is very proud to see his son growing close to achieving the noble distinction in scouting. He noted only two to four percent of Scouts go on to earn the Eagle Scout Badge, but it is an honor that stays with them for life.

"It's something he (Nick) has wanted to do for a while now, a goal he's had and I'm excited to see him working so hard toward it," said the older Patterson.

Once the bat houses are in place, Patterson will then submit his application to appear before the scouting board and hopefully receive his Eagle Scout Badge sometime in November. Anyone interested in having one of the remaining fifteen bat houses installed on their property are asked to contact him by email at nap@metrocast.net. The houses will be placed on a first come, first served basis until they are gone.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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