Saskatoon

Sask. event asks you to turn down the lights and enjoy Mother Nature's nighttime beauty

Sometimes being in the dark is a good thing.

Dark skies event at Beaver Creek celebrates our nocturnal neighbours

Batrick (shown) and Elizabat are two bats will be on-hand at the event. (Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan Facebook page)

Sometimes being in the dark is a good thing.

This is especially true for nocturnal species, but these animals and plants have problems when they live around humans that love shining light on everything.

This light pollution is having drastic effects on our ecosystems, according to Kenton Lysak, senior interpreter with the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA).

On Saturday the MVA will host Dark Skies at the Creek, an event celebrating the night skies and aiming to educate people on how nocturnal species can be protected.

"The ecosystems are affected by so many things," Lysak told Peter Mills on CBC's Saskatoon Morning

"Not just nocturnal animals. Plants and even humans see negative effects of trespassing light, light that's doesn't need to be in these ecosystems or even around our houses."

Kenton Lysak is a senior interpreter with the Meewasin Valley Authority. (Submitted by Meewasin Valley Authority)

Lysak said nocturnal animals like bats, nighthawks and the northern leopard frog provide a huge service to us.

"(Bats) eat 1,200 mosquitoes every hour. How amazing is that," he said. "Leopard frogs need nocturnal environments in order to sing and that's how they start their mating ritual, which is a whole other story."

Lysak said more than half the species around Saskatoon are nocturnal or have some form of nocturnality within their lifecycle. 

"When you shine a light on them you influence their behaviours. And what we're starting to see as scientists is this influences them to a negative effect," he said.

"Bats vacate areas, leopard frogs stop singing and even migrating birds will either completely avoid our cities or they'll be drawn into the light which confuses them, stresses them out and causes huge problems."

Lysak said we have to keep developing policies and practices that encourage biodiversity in our cities and that includes preventing light pollution.

It can be as easy as turning off lights when you are not using them and installing dark sky-compliant lighting fixtures.  

SaskPower recently announced that Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Lloydminster will all be upgraded to dark sky-compliant lighting over the course of 2019 and 2020.

"The cool thing is if we shut off our lights we are seeing more instances of jackrabbits in our yard, of bees in our yard, of bats especially," Lysak said. 

"I have a bat box in my yard that encourages bats to come to my area. I never get bitten by a mosquito."

The northern leopard frog nocturnal environments in order to sing and to start their mating ritual. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lysak said Saturday's event will teach people about why it's worth protecting our night sky. 

"I guess the thing we have to remember is in Saskatoon we've got this beautiful river valley. It's the lifeblood and corridor of our entire city for species as well as humans," he said.

"If we think about it from that perspective I think that we can say these animals are a fundamental and integral part of Saskatoon."

On Saturday, Beaver Creek Conservation Area will come alive with the sounds of bats, frogs and night hawks. 

Dark Skies at the Creek takes place at Beaver Creek Conservation Area from noon to 8:30 p.m. CST. 

Activities include bat box building, nocturnal story times, night hiking and night sky telescopes.

You can even meet live bats — Batrick and Elizabat from Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation.

with files from Saskatoon Morning

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