Students at Tahoe Valley Elementary going batty |

Students at Tahoe Valley Elementary going batty

Some visitors at Tahoe Valley Elementary School Wednesday have had rough lives.

Earlier in their lives they had been persecuted because they were different.

Rufus was hit in the head with a board and has severe brain damage; Jennifer’s whole family was poisoned and killed.

However, Patricia Winters, who takes care of them now, hopes that introducing them to children will help educate the public about their kind. The more the public understands them, the less likely people will harm these important creatures.

Rufus and Jennifer weren’t typical visitors at Carol Murdock’s fifth-grade class – they are bats.

“I hope they get more of an appreciation of bats and a better understanding of how important they are. I also want them to understand we have to help the bats; they’re going to need our help in order to survive,” said Winters, a bat educator and rehabilitator. “I also want them to learn you can’t pick up wild animals.”

Winters, a part of the California Bat Conservation Fund, travels throughout Northern California educating people about bats. This was her first trip to South Lake Tahoe’s schools.

Mike St. Michel, visitors center director of the U.S. Forest Service, said bringing her to Tahoe is the latest part in an ongoing project. For months, a “bat box” has circulated through Lake Tahoe Unified School District schools, containing videos, books, puzzles and other educational tools about bats. It’s part of a Service Learning project created in cooperation with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Between Wednesday and Friday, she will have visited 10 classes.

“This is kind of the culmination for the bat box program,” St. Michel said. “We hope to have her back on a yearly basis.”

It’s not as if any of the bats Winters brought were flying around the room, wreaking havoc. None of the three bats – Jennifer, Rufus nor Muffin – could fly. Muffin, a Hoary bat, has a permanently broken wing. Rufus, a Myotis evotis, can’t fly because of his brain damage. Jennifer, a Pallid bat, can’t fly because … well … uh, you see … Jennifer’s a little too overweight to fly.

“When she was old enough to fly, she looked like a watermelon with wings,” Winters told the attentive children.

And just because the nocturnal mammals weren’t flapping around the classroom doesn’t mean the kids didn’t learn – and have a good time.

“I learned about bats,” said Bryan Gosh. ” I learned that they don’t hurt you, and insect bats have a little catcher’s mit they pick up bugs with.”

“I think it was really good,” said Krissy Rumack. “She told us about what bats can do and that they won’t hurt us.”

“I thought it was very educational, and I think they’re very furry and very cute,” said Jordan Hughes. “And I feel sorry for Rufus, because he got hit in the head by a board.”

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