News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 29, 2013

DNR talks set up to answer public’s questions

TERRE HAUTE — Horror novels and creepy movies have given bats an unsavory reputation.

While most people probably don’t think they will become vampires if bitten by a bat, many feel bats almost certainly all have rabies.

As it turns out, a bat is no more likely to have rabies than a dog, raccoon, skunk or “really any other mammal,” according to Angie Manuel, an interpretive naturalist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

That was just one of the many facts about nocturnal creatures, many of whom we associate with Halloween, that Manuel shared through the IDNR’s Facebook page during a one-hour live question-and-answer “talk” Tuesday afternoon from 2 to 3 p.m.

The sessions, known as “Talk to a DNR Expert,” are a new way for the state agency to reach the public in a basically no-cost manner, said Dawn Krause, program director in the communications division of the IDNR and the person who came up with the program.

About every two or three weeks a new DNR expert is lined up to host a one-hour Facebook discussion. Tuesday’s topic was creatures that go bump in the night, spurring our imaginations at Halloween. Manuel hosted because she is an expert in nocturnal animals, especially bats, which she got to know well while working at the Mounds State Park in Anderson. She is now a naturalist at the Prophetstown State Park in West Lafayette.

Tuesday’s talk also featured photos taken by the IDNR’s many talented photographers, Krause said. Photos showed a hibernating red bat, baby opossums, a short-eared owl and other animals that are active after the sun goes down.

Apart from bats, other nighttime animals often considered “creepy” include coyotes, snakes, toads and opossums, Manuel said in answer to a question. The timber rattlesnake, which can be found in southern Indiana, is nocturnal as are some toads, she said.

Indiana has a very “healthy” coyote population, Manuel said when asked how many of the animals are roaming the Hoosier countryside. She also pointed out that opossums have more than 50 teeth, which they often show startled humans. That’s the most teeth of any mammal, she said.

Opossums are very misunderstood, chimed in one participant in the discussion. “They eat those slugs that are so destructive in the garden.”

Several people took part in the one-hour live “talk.” Access is limited to those who “Like” the Indiana DNR on Facebook and there is no charge.

“It’s kind of been a growing process,” said Krause, who launched the series about 18 months ago. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started them… It’s really taken off.”

Some of the most popular “talks” have been on restoring cemeteries, dealing with water wells and ways to become a conservation officer, Krause said. Other popular topics have included abandoned coal mines, edible things in the wild and “cattail cooking.”

Talks this winter will deal with Christmas trees and snowmobiling. The next talk, set for Nov. 13 at 2 p.m., will cover the firearms deer hunting season. For the latest information and a schedule, visit the agency’s website at www.in.gov/dnr/7315.htm.

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