Bats released over Omaha at Joslyn Castle

Critical to controlling insect population, Nebraska Wildlife Rehab releases hundreds every Spring
Nebraska Wildlife Rehab's "Bats Over Omaha" returned to Joslyn Castle Monday.
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 10:59 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The bats are flying over Omaha once again.

“We have 13 species of bats in Nebraska, tonight we will only be releasing Big Brown bats which is primarily what we find in inner city Omaha.”

Lauren Salick, education coordinator for Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, was going over the plan for the night at Joslyn Castle Monday, where more than 3,000 bat enthusiasts found roosts on the lawn and gardens to see the release of 350 rehabbed bats into the sky at dusk.

“They’re gonna get up into the air, they’re gonna start echolocating because these are bats that use echolocating for their primary sense,” Salick said. “They’re probably gonna find a safe and stable spot first, that might be a tree, it might be the castle. We do have a lot of great research that says when you release them within their general home location, they go back to where their original roost was.”

After several years as a closed event due to COVID-19, seen only on live stream, Bats Over Omaha attracted the largest crowd in its 14 years. Executive director Laura Stastny of Nebraska Wildlife Rehab said it easily surpassed the previous record when the event was held at Joslyn Museum. This is the first time it has been held at the castle, and it provided the perfect atmosphere for a family event.

“When we have a big event like this, I think its the kids teaching the parents not to be afraid of bats,” Stastny said. “And then together we can dispel those myths and I think together we can create a community around preserving wildlife in our community.”

If you’ve ever had bats in your belfry - or your attic, more likely - you know our only flying mammal can be quite athletic, and in Nebraska - and Omaha particularly where these bats were rescued and rehabbed - they do some pretty important work for us now that they’re back on their own.

“They protect us from disease-carrying insects like mosquitos that carry West Nile virus, Zika virus and malaria,” Stastny told the crowd during a pre-release introduction. “They also eat insects that cause extensive crop damage, protecting our farmers from billions of dollars in crop damage every year... Yay bats!”