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Bats are Awesome!!!


Monday was another fabulous day at Camp Hope. It was cloudy and it sprinkled lightly throughout the day. Although the rain DID hold off while the kids were fishing, which was super awesome. After we got back to the camp from Ward Lake, one of the kitchen staff was sitting outside in the sprinkling rain. Fellow volunteer, Ryan Tatum, and I asked her why she was sitting in the rain. She told us there was a bat in the window of the kitchen.

Ryan and I took off like two kids at Christmas. Sure enough, there he was, roosting quietly between the screen and glass, just hanging out.

Lame pun, I know, but just humor me will ya??

Anyway, Ryan and I, in true MacGuyver style, formulated a fool-proof plan to get this little bat into one of four bat boxes my husband built and placed in strategic locations all around the camp. Below is a picture of one (not one of the ones we have but it gives you an idea of what they look like). If you click on the picture, it will take you to a website with info on how to build them and how and where to hang them. They resemble birdhouses but with the entrance at the bottom and without the familiar round entry hole. Inside will be one or more slats made of plywood covered in fine-mesh screen. Contrary to popular belief, bats don’t just hang out in damp caves. Many species of bats will roost exposed on the sides of trees or buildings, or they’ll find a nice space to squeeze into. They like to feel safe and warm. But don’t we all??

At Camp Hope, the buildings all have huge shutters that we close in the fall when we winterize the camp. Unfortunately, the space between the shutter and the side of the building makes a perfect roosting place for bats. When we close the shutters, we then destroy their “home”. But now that we have bat boxes, we can place the bats inside, giving them a safe, permanent home.

Well, the attempt to put the bat into a bat box failed. The little guy just wouldn’t climb up into the box and ended up flying away.

*sigh*

Ryan and I figured maybe he would eventually make his way back to the kitchen window and we’d make another attempt. As we were walking around camp, I noticed a tiny bat just hanging on the side of the large bunkhouse.

Is he NOT the cutest thing you’ve ever seen???

We grabbed out bat catching gear: leather gloves, two shallow plastic cups, and a wide but thin stick. After gently getting the bat into one cup and covering him with the other, Ryan grabbed a ladder and I proceeded to climb to the box, which was about fifteen feet off the ground.

***I must insert this here…I HATE ladders! I was so shaky the whole time I was walking up the damn thing. Ryan offered to do the climbing but I actually trusted his ability to hold the ladder still with me on it than with my ability to steady the damn thing with him on it.***

After gently coaxing the tiny bat onto the stick, I slowly raised it to the box and he climbed right inside like he owned the place! I admit I squeeeeeeeeed a little as I climbed down. Ryan and I shared a high five and declared ourselves the bat relocater specialists extraordinaire.

I googled the different species of bats that live here in Colorado and this guy might be what they call a long-eared myotis. His ears (I did notice that this one was a male) were much longer than those of the first bat we captured. BUT I am not a bat expert by any means and am not sure of bat ear length is different between juvenile and adult bats. This may simply be a young brown bat. Hopefully someone with more expertise will see this and comment.

I have decided that I want to begin studying these bats around Camp Hope and maybe learn something about them that I can share with the kids. People are timid around bats and are often afraid of them. But they are actually fascinating animals that are a very important part of an ecosystem. And they eat a TON of insects. That’s a plus, am I right?? There’s also a fungus (white-nosed fungus) that appears to be killing bats across the US. I’d like to study these bats and keep track of their numbers to see if they carry this fungus.

What kinds of bats live near your home? Are you one of those that are afraid of them, or are you like me and think they are super adorable?? I’d love to hear from you!

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6 Comments on “Bats are Awesome!!!”

  1. hmcmullin July 18, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    I used to be afraid of bats, and then I went to the National Zoo in Washington,DC, where they have a night habitat room -simulates darkness so noctural creatures are up and about. One of the displays was fruit bats, and one of the little guys was very active. As I watched, he not only drank water upside down, he ate banana pieces and grapes upside down, and from then on I was fascinated by bats. Still am cautious when they show up because rabies is endemic in our bat populations, but I do have a lot more appreciation for what they are and what they do.

    • Mary Wallace July 18, 2012 at 11:08 am #

      I have always ABSOLUTELY ADORED bats. I had a subscription to the Bat Conservancy fund years ago back when I wasn’t so poor, lol. Bats are such graceful and fascinating little guys. I had to giggle when you described your efforts at getting him into his house. We went through similar gyrations getting a few strays that had wandered into the people houses out of the people houses and at least outdoors. This was way back in the ‘fifties. My parents, who never met any kind of animal they didn’t like, were careful to capture the little critters and release them outdoors. Nice article, Dr. Fab. Thanks for the smiles.

      • shayfabbro July 18, 2012 at 11:48 am #

        I am looking forward to helping the next little critters find a better home than behind shutters that will be closed during the winter. I seriously wish I could have a bat as a pet 😀

    • shayfabbro July 18, 2012 at 11:48 am #

      Usually, as long as bats are behaving like bats, they don’t have rabies. I only handle them with thick leather gloves just in case though 😉

  2. Mary Wallace July 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Good for you! Wanted you to know. You were my inspiration for my post today! Gave you a mention. Thank you Dr. Fab!

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