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Fat Bats

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'm in Soldatna, Alaska now, finishing up our work at the fabulous Kenai Birding Festival with my best guy. This is a laundry morning, a repacking morning, a get-ready-for-a-big-day-morning, but I wanted to let you know what's been going on with The Battista Sisters. You remember, Mirabel and Stella, the two big brown bats we overwintered.

The Battista Sisters came to me in the first week of February 2012, having been found flying around a bedroom in an old house in Marietta, OH (Stella) and clinging to a brick pillar in a busy supermarket breezeway, six inches off the ground (Mirabel). 

I took them in, they bonded and became inseparable, and I kept them the rest of the winter, waiting for the weather to warm enough to release them. 
Oh, and I fed them. Mealworms. Boy did I feed them. 

I plan to write this up elsewhere, and spent a good long day on the jet to Soldatna writing about it, but the long and short of it is that I gave them too much food and really messed them up. They came to me in the 17-18 gm range. I left the in the garage hibernating in cool temperatures and as of March 1 they were still maintaining a weight of about 18 gm each. Perfect. But I got sloppy and started giving them more worms, just dumping a bunch in their bowl every morning, and by April 16 they were each topping 25 gm. ACK! How did that happen?
It turns out that you have to ration them to about 12 a day. I didn't know that. I gave them all they would eat, and that's a lot.
This is Mirabel, and it's what a 25-gm big brown bat looks like. She looks like a flying sofa pillow, that's what she looks like.
In this photo, I'm blowing on her back fur to reveal a huge U-shaped roll of fat around her bottom under her sweet pink skin. Oh-oh.

See how her whole stern section (the furred part) is U-shaped? It ought to be deltoid. Yeah, so should mine.
This is how a 25-gm big brown bat flies. Which is, not at all. Scuttle-hopping is more like it. Baby got bat.

Mirabel, I got some 'splainin' to do. First, I'm sorry I got you into this mess. I thought I was helping you girls.
Second, I'm going to fix it. First, we'll get you a tent. A beautiful Wenzel Zephyr 9 x 13' screen house. 
Whose most important feature is the "welded polyethelene floor" (see Mirabel's substrate, above) which is integral to the walls and will prevent you and sister Stella from escaping while you attend Bat Boot Camp with Mether.

Bat Boot Camp? What's that??
Sounds eeky (says Mirabel as she hangs inches from the floor).

Well, it's where Mether picks you up and tosses your fat little bodies into the air every evening, and she cuts your mealworm consumption by oh, 90% until you lose the extra baggage and are airborne again.
We'll install you in the tent and you can get out and fly whenever you feel like it.

Stella: We don't feel like it, thank you.

Oh, you will. You will. Or I'm going to die trying.

If you do a little math, bringing a bat down from 26 gm to 18 gm is like asking me to get down to about 97 pounds in 4 weeks. I beg of you, don't do the math.

 Some said it couldn't be done, but I owed it to my girls, and I was going to give it one heck of a try. On the bats. Not me. I would need my Tahitian Vanilla Talenti Gelato to fortify me for the work ahead.


Now I ask you, who else in America could write a piece starting off with 2 fat bats named the Battista sisters and ending with a reference to Tahitian Vanilla Talenti Gelato... NO ONE, that's who!!

Why so fast with the weight loss?

Unless they were to be starring in a movie with Tom Hanks about being on a deserted island for years and had to look the part?

No slow and steady as Dr Oz recommends?

Wayne, PA

Posted by Anonymous May 20, 2012 at 6:42 AM

Heather, good question. You will see in subsequent posts...there is a time pressure with female bats, who deliver their young in May. Ack Ack Ack.

Beautiful bats, they are. And they are lucky to have found their way to you and Bat Boot Camp. Your care and concern makes the world a better place. (Oh, and I got 140.1111111111.)

Posted by Amy Girten May 20, 2012 at 7:57 AM

Well, the BATtle of the bulge is always harder for girls, it seems.
Glad to see those substantial gloves.
Is that screen house bottom ratsnake proof? Just a thought. My slithery pals are pretty good at getting in where they may not be welcome.

Good luck with this diet plan.


The rat snake thought crossed my mind, too, Floridacracker. That was the other time pressure-to get them out before the garage snakes figured out how to get into the tent. I always zipped it up tight as a drum so they couldn't escape, and I had to hope a rat snake wouldn't figger out how to ease the zippers open, because they were surely vulnerable. If anyone was up to that, a rat snake would be. Having the tent closed in the garage did protect them from coons, our major adversaries around here.

Please, please, I have to know, and I haven't been following this--did you name Mirabel after the radioactive bat in Vol. 2 of James Merrill's The Changing Light at Sandover??

Posted by Judy Moffett May 24, 2012 at 7:19 AM

For Judy Moffett, who asked, "Please, please, I have to know, and I haven't been following this--did you name Mirabel after the radioactive bat in Vol. 2 of James Merrill's The Changing Light at Sandover?? "

No! I've never heard of it! But what a lovely congruity. Thanks for that. I named Mirabel because it was a pretty name and she was a marvel and a miracle to me and I wanted her name to reflect that.

wow...your life is crazier than I ever imagined (from looking at sketches on Birdingonthenet). Maybe you should call Bob and Jillian from the Battiest Loser.... if you do not get them thinner, do you have to feed the bat pups too and teach them how to fly?

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