Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Bat in the House

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Armistice Day blizzard - one of the worst storms in the history of the mid-west. That day started out much like today, with unseasonably warm weather - in the 60s. It was a perfect day to go duck hunting on the Upper Mississippi River. Then, without warning, temperatures plummeted into the 30s, winds whipped up to 80 mph and more than 2-feet of snow fell. Nearly 50 people died in Minnesota - half of them duck hunters on the Upper Mississippi River.

I was thinking about that Blizzard today and the program Wings Over Alma Nature and Art Center is presenting on Sunday.

I was not thinking about bats today - although on warm days like this "close encounters of the bat kind" can happen. (Unseasonably warm days can disrupt hibernation - causing confused bats to crawl out of an attic - and fly around the house.)

No, I wasn't thinking about bats at all, when my phone rang at 9:30 pm.

The caller was a woman I'd met only a few times. She lives in northern Minnesota. And she was thinking about bats today.

She had a bat in her house and she thought I might be able to help her.

Yah, sure, I said, expecting to hear that she wasn't happy about her little furry visitor.

I was wrong. She likes bats.

She said she caught the little guy and fed him some mealworms. She wanted to know what to do next.

I cautioned her about Minnesota wildlife regulations and the health concerns associated with handling bats. Then I explained what the bat was doing in her house (following the vertical gradient of temperature - looking for a cooler place to roost/hibernate).

Like "Alice in Wonderland"... the bat went down the rabbit hole and ended up facing not one, but four Cheshire cats. (She has 4 indoor cats). Disoriented and dehydrated, all this little bat wants to do is get a drink, then get back to a cool roost and get on with the hibernation.

The woman said she put it in a little plastic cage with a dish of mealworms and gave it a spritz of water. Now what? She just couldn't put it outside now that it's freezing. She didn't want him to die.

Put him back up in your attic and he'll be fine, I said.

You may see him again, if it gets unseasonably warm. If you do - feed him and give him a drink, but don't put him in a "cage" with hard surfaces (plastic aquarium or gas jar). The hard surfaces can damage bat wings.

Consider buying a "reptarium" cloth mesh cage. Get your pre-exposure rabies vaccination. And if you want to know more about bats in captivity, take a look at this book: Bats in Captivity: Aspects of Rehabilitation.

Send me a photo, so I can confirm the ID.

She did: it's a Big Brown bat.

Would that all "bat emergency" calls have happy endings like this one:

 "I put him back in the small attic space after he ate 16 meal worms and had another drink. He crawled through the gap in the access panel. I heard him climb up the inside wall. Then he crawled back down and peeked out again. I told him he had to go back to bed, play time is over! He turned around and went back. I hope he makes it..."

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