Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bat Rescue

I found myself in a unique situation recently: driving down the highway in 90 degree weather with no air conditioning and a bat in a box on the floor of my passenger side.

As a precursor to this story: I have training in how to deal with bats, I worked with them through the Vermont Fish and Wildlife department. Bats have a high risk of carrying rabies, which is very dangerous to humans. This is one of those "do not try at home" situations. If you come in contact with a bat, do not let anyone handle it*.

Now, back to the story.

We had found the bat baking in the sun on the pavement on our way back from lunch. I could tell from a glance that it was severely dehydrated, based on the appearance of the membrane on its wings. The first important step in any such situation is to protect yourself. We happened to be near some campus medical buildings, so I grabbed a few pairs of nitrile gloves. Being careful not to touch the bat directly, even with the gloves, I coaxed it onto a piece of cardboard and moved it out of the sun. Then, when I dribbled a small puddle of water near the bat's face, we got to see it quickly start lapping up the water like a very, very small kitten.

I made a few phone calls and found a veterinarian that deals with wildlife. That brings us back to where we started; transporting Bartleby to the vet. I named the bat Bartleby, even though I am still not 100% sure he is male. It just seemed to suit 'him'.

When I arrived one of the first questions the vet asked was about the risk of rabies exposure. I was proud to be able to tell him that nobody had direct contact with Bartleby since I became responsible for it, not even me! This made things a lot easier, and a lot safer for Bartleby since they didn't have to worry that he was spreading diseases.

They say that bats don't always respond very well to rehabilitation, but we gave it our best shot! The vet started by feeding him a sugar, vitamin, and water solution to help with the starvation and dehydration.

 Bartleby lapped it right up, must have been delicious...to a starving bat

Then they offered Bartleby some mealworms and crickets, which he refused. We figured part of the problem there might have been stress from so much human exposure. Sure enough, the vet left him alone overnight and he ate in the morning. I had to leave, but I knew I was leaving Bartleby in excellent hands.

The vet had his rabies shots, but this towel helped him not risk it while handling Bartleby.

In recent times bat populations have been in trouble, largely due to the white nose fungus but also to some unknown complications. Researchers are working to gather information on these secondary problems. Bartleby did not exhibit signs of whitenose. If we can figure out why Bartleby was struggling, we might understand better how to help the bat populations overall.

*In you find yourself in contact with a wild animal, you can contact the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700, and they may be able to give you instruction on how to deal with your wildlife situation.

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