Scout a boon for bats

Published 10:17 pm Friday, May 24, 2013

Suffolk’s newest Eagle Scout is bad news for mosquitoes.

When 14-year-old River Fiedler began thinking about a project to earn Scouting’s highest rank, he set himself a challenge.

River Fiedler earned his Eagle Scout badge by building bat boxes and installing them at Sleepy Hole Park. His idea was to cut down on mosquitoes, which are a favorite food of bats.

River Fiedler earned his Eagle Scout badge by building bat boxes and installing them at Sleepy Hole Park. His idea was to cut down on mosquitoes, which are a favorite food of bats.

“I was thinking what could be fixed around Suffolk,” River said. “I looked at the mosquitoes and did some research and decided on bat boxes. Bats eat from 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes an hour.”

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He obtained bat box plans from Bat Conservation International and, after putting his proposal together, made a trip to Lowe’s to investigate materials.

“I was a little off,” he said. “I think I got an estimate of $150, and it turned out to be $210.”

The money was raised passing the hat around family and friends, and though the project called for 10, which are now attached to trees in Sleepy Hole Park, River built 13 bat boxes.

He said his mom gave the three left over, which were not paid for by donations, to family and friends.

“I thought a park was the best place to put them,” River said. “It would be more enjoyable to have no mosquitoes where you come out and have a picnic.

“I’m not saying there’s going to be no mosquitoes, but there’s definitely going to be less of them.”

Other steps in the project included organizing for about 25 volunteers to come to the Fiedler home in Burbage Grant to assemble the bat boxes.

“It was kind of perfect,” River said. “I was proposing to get it done within four hours, but we got it done within two.”

He also had to obtain permission from the city to place the bat boxes in Sleepy Hole Park, where a ranger helped pick out appropriate trees.

River, his mom, and her co-worker — “He had the right tools,” River said — positioned the bat boxes 12 to 15 feet off the ground.

“I first wanted to put them on shelters, but I came to the conclusion we couldn’t put them where people gravitate because of the guano,” River said. “It would be very unhealthy.”

The project was completed May 4, and River has become the youngest Scout in Troop 911 to achieve Eagle Scout, his mom said.

In his troop, River has also served as assistant senior patrol leader and senior patrol leader, as well as den chief.

“Scouting is really important to me,” River said. “It has taught me a lot, and I love everything about it.”

River is a freshman at Nansemond River High School. He lettered this year with the swim team and also plays baseball for Bennett’s Creek Little League.

He passed his Eagle Scout Board of Review May 16.