Taking a 16-hour road trip from Michigan to Jackson with four live bats doesn't faze Rob Mies who has spent his career promoting bat conservation and education.
"I have a big van, so I have had to take them out in the van a few times when I heard them fussing and thought they were hurt or irritated," he told the Jackson Free Press while driving his van this morning.
When Mies was driving through Pennsylvania a few weeks ago on a different trip, he pulled over to find out why his Malayan Flying Fox bat was making noises. When he opened the door to the bat's crate, she jumped out and clung to her owner. Mies then noticed a wasp had gotten inside her crate.
"She wouldn't go back in for hours. I wasn't going to sit at a truck stop in the mountains of Pennsylvania," he says. "So I hung her from the passenger's side sun visor, and she just hung there as we drove."
As the founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation, Mies regularly makes appearances at museums, schools and television shows to talk about the benefits of bats, the importance of conservation and how the public can get involved. Mies' TV appearances include "The Ellen Degeneres Show," "The Today Show," "Live with Regis and Kelly," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and "Martha Stewart."
On Saturday, Mies will give a live bat presentation at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science during its annual NatureFEST at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. NatureFEST is a family festival that promotes wildlife and the outdoors. In addition to the live bat presentation, participants can meet "Snake Man" Terry Vandeventer, watch divers feed fish in the museum aquariums, dig for fossils, take guided tours on the museum's nature trails and explore the museum's exhibits.
Mies, who grew up in Michigan, developed an appreciation for bats at a young age when he would watch them in their natural habitats during camping trips. Instead of fearing bats, he wants people to appreciate their role in the environment. Mies says that the amount of insects bats consume on a yearly basis is equal to about $20 billion in pesticides.
"Without bats, we would have far more insects, which would cause a lot of crop damage," he says.
NatureFEST is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (2148 Riverside Drive). Admission is $6 for adults; $4 for children ages 3-18. For more information, call 601-354-7303.