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Mountain Vista students help provide habitat for bats

Youths work with Cherokee Ranch and Castle to create shelter boxes


Students at Mountain Vista High School have partnered with the Cherokee Ranch and Castle, a historic structure that sits atop a hill west of Daniels Park, to help protect important but often overlooked animals: bats.

“The best part was collaborating with the ranch and being able to hang outside for a day instead of in a classroom,” Ben Yoshida, a junior at Mountain Vista, said at a May 1 presentation at the ranch and castle, at 6113 Daniels Park Road in Sedalia.

Lori Schwendema's advanced placement science class brainstormed the idea after Roots & Shoots, a program founded by chimpanzee-extraordinaire Jane Goodall in 1991. The goal is for today's youths to study and find solutions to environmental issues.

When exploring options, the Cherokee Ranch and Castle was the perfect fit, those involved in the project say.

In 1996, the property's then owner, Mildred Montague Genevieve Kimball, also known as “Tweet,” protected 3,400 acres of surrounding land through a conservation easement. The pristine property that overlooks rolling green hills and the Rocky Mountains is now a wildlife sanctuary, home to elk, deer, turkey, cattle and bats.

Bats kill insects and help regulate ecosystems, said Jeannine Colley, education coordinator at the Cherokee Ranch & Castle Foundation. But they need a place to live. Without one, they make do in roofs, attics and sheds, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Sometimes they invade existing structures,” Colley said. “By giving the bats a place to live, we help them stay off human radar.”

Mountain Vista students spent a day at the ranch, constructing 12 black wooden boxes with a small hole in the bottom and tiny ridges along the inside for the bats to grasp onto. The boxes required 4,000 slabs of wood, which four volunteers at the ranch cut, and each box had 84 screws. Eight of the boxes have been attached to tall wooden poles throughout the property.

Raised in Parker, Schwendema has had a fascination with the ranch and castle since she was a child, she said. In January, her class toured the castle, sparking excitement for the project.

“I had driven past this castle a million times and thought, I want to go there someday,” said Schwendema.

Colley foresees a lasting partnership with Mountain Vista High School. Ideas for future projects include studying wildlife and sustainable ranching or designing a recycling program.

“This is the beginning of a pretty exciting collaboration,” said Colley.


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