From the archives: St. Cloud State’s own ‘Batman’

Friday, March 30, 2012

Harry Goehring
Harry Goehring  Harry Goehring entering a bat cave 

An interest in bats turned into a calling for Wisconsin native Harry Goehring. Goehring, a professor of biology at St. Cloud State from 1946-71, evolved into an international expert on the nocturnal flying mammals.

In 1951, Goehring began studying bat colonies in southern Minnesota. After his initial research, he discovered that not much was known about bats, including their hibernation habits. That led Goehring to seek locations closer to St. Cloud. In a Nov. 30, 1951, story in the College Chronicle, Goehring discussed a colony of bats living in the walls of Stewart Hall. He urged readers to inform him of bat hibernation areas near the University. Soon after, Goehring received a tip from a local fourth grader about a bat colony in a sewer not far from campus.

For the next 20 years, Goehring and teams of volunteers banded, identified and cataloged bats hibernating in that sewer. Goehring and his volunteers learned which bats returned to the cave, those that were new to the location, how large or small the population of bats was, and determined the numbers of male and female bats. Over 20 years, Goehring documented that many bats which returned to the sewer to hibernate were in their teens, despite the typical age of a large brown bat being three years.

Goehring expanded his research in 1968 by documenting a bat colony that lived in the attic of Riverview.

In 1966, Goehring earned the Minnesota Academy of Science award for “distinguished service to science” in part for his research on bats.

In 1968, David Mork joined the biology faculty at St. Cloud State and assisted Goehring with the bat-banding. Goehring retired in 1971, handing the reigns of “Batman” to his junior colleague. Mork continued to visit the sewer yearly until 1993.

Goehring died in New Hampshire April 1997 at the age of 89.

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