The Echo
Batty poetry - Virginia Governor inspired by the Virginia big-eared bat

The Echo

Batty poetry - Virginia Governor inspired by the Virginia big-eared bat

Published on July 29, 2015


Bat poem written by Virginia Governor Mark Warner in 2005In 2005 the Virginia General Assembly designated the Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) as the commonwealth’s official state bat. With this, Virginia became the second state in the nation (after Texas) to have a bat as an official representative.

But what makes the Virginia big-eared bat so special? The Virginia big-eared bat is one of the three subspecies of Townsend’s big-eared bat, and is only found in Virginia, West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and Western North Carolina. This bat is one of three endangered bats in Virginia - including the grey bat and Indiana bat, and is extremely rare across its range. With only about 10,000 left in the wild, the Virginia big-eared bat is extremely susceptible to the biggest threats facing bats today.

The Virginia Cave Board initially brought forth the idea of making the Virginia big-eared bat the state’s official bat as a way to educate the public about caves and the life that inhabits them. The bill was then passed through the house, eventually getting to Governor Mark Warner’s desk. In his signing statement, the governor added a bit more than his John Hancock to the bill, creatively expressing his thoughts on the situation:

“This bill designates the Virginia Big-Eared bat as the official bat of the Commonwealth. The Legislature previously has designated a state bird (northern cardinal), a state flower and tree (dogwood), a state dog (American fox hound), a state boat (Chesapeake Bay deadrise), a state dance (square dance), a state insect (tiger swallowtail butterfly), a state fish (brook trout), a state shell (oyster), a state fossil (Chesapecten jeffersonius), and a state beverage (Got Milk?). Therefore, I see no harm in designating a state bat, no matter how odd-looking the Virginia Big-Eared bat might be. However, I am compelled to add this:

 

I took some grief for my nudist park pun.

But resist I cannot on this one.

I will sign this bill,

more or less of free will.

But I can't do it without having some fun.

 

We have a state dog and a fish and a bird.

And of the fossil I’m sure you have heard.

So why not a bat?

What's wrong with that?

The state beverage is no more absurd.

 

Upon my signature now it appears,

The designation will now last for years.

I'll spare you the Latin

If you're seeking the bat in

A guidebook, it's the one with big ears.

 

I think our bat's up to the test.

If you doubt it, just ask Adam West.

He was TV's Bruce Wayne --

the caped crusader's real name --

and could 'Zap!' and 'Kapow!' with the best.”

 

Virginia big-eared bats may be small (an average of 3.5-4 inches long, in fact), and may not have a big population, but they are nonetheless important parts of their respective ecosystems. They deserve the love and recognition of not just Virginians, but all of us.

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