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Big Brown Batfix!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Time for a big brown batfix!

In this undated file footage, a big brown bat named Velma, who was rescued from the foyer of a library on a frigid February day, dines on mealworms.  Bats (big browns around here) tend to show up in heated interior spaces when their hibernaculae, which tend to be dry unheated attics, get too cold for them. So I wait for bat calls when the temperature gets into the single digits, and they come in when the night temperatures get ridiculous. What the bats need then is a safe, 40-degreeish place to hibernate for the winter, with occasional feedings/waterings when nights get into the 50's, until they can be released right where they were found in the first week of May.

In this video, you will see an excellent example of what Phoebe calls "worm-mouth."
I find it endearing, Phoebe not so much.

Velma liked to eat unconfined, and she was able to pick the worms and pupae up by herself, though she never learned to use a bowl.

At about 0:43 in the video, you can see her raise her head, open her mouth and start emitting (almost inaudible) radar blasts. I hear them as sort of a low-frequency thrumming. She's going to go! and she does, hanging herself up neatly on the screen. You can hear me say, "Radar's on." She's fit as a fiddle here, and circled the room probably 30 times in one bout after this video was made. FYI, she always neatly avoided my hair and had no desire to get tangled up in it. That's what you want to see: strong sustained flight, precise maneuvering. That's a healthy, releasable bat.

Velma came in thin and remained so, at 17-18 gm. Better thin, I've learned, than too fat!
A highly entertaining post about my two obese bats, Stella and Mirabel, at this link.

I have learned to judge the condition of a bat by looking at its pelvic region. Just like you can look at a cow or horse and see what kind of shape it's in. Or hey, me.

 An overweight bat will have a roll of fat there, and you can't even see its bones. Velma's a little thin, but that's OK. As you can see in the video, she was flightworthy!

Beautiful Velma, overall.

While I'm at it, as many of you know, I'm on Facebook. I had to disallow posting from my friends on my Wall, because my Wall had turned into a solid stream of photos and videos of adorable flying foxes (a huge tropical fruit bat) drinking from doll bottles, being swaddled in baby blankets, being stroked and chucked under the chin etc. etc. Flying foxes have the distinct advantage of being big enough for people to be able to see their faces, and those faces look more like puppies' than bats'. Lucky flying foxes. They're hoplessly charismatic.

While I enjoy watching such videos, I never repost them, because I have a problem with them. It's the same problem I have with the Tubes of the Internet in general. And that's that there is almost never any useful (or in this case, vital) information accompanying the adorable photos and videos. They are meant for people to merely swoon over, but not learn from. But these cuddly baby bat videos could prove dangerous, even lethal, in a "don't try this at home" way.

I don't handle any bat without heavy gardening gloves and a dental hygienist's plastic face guard.  Nor should those Australian rescuers, in my opinion. Sometimes, as in the case of my hard-chompin' little nest of vipers, Drusilla, I used two layers of latex gloves underneath those Gore-tex and leather gloves. You do NOT want to be bitten by ANY bat, flying fox or big brown, adorable baby or grown-up, or anything in between. All bats have the potential of carrying viruses that kill humans. We know what the big one is. Although Australia, where most of the flying fox videos are coming from, doesn't have rabies, it has something similarly deadly called lyssavirus. It's rare, but probably more common in flying foxes than we suspect. There have been three human cases, all transmitted by flying foxes, in Australia since it was first identified in 1996, and all three were fatal. Read more here.

So. I can't pass up a teaching moment, and if you watch the video of adorable (peaceful) little Velma eating, then flying, you will see me reflected in the window, wearing long sleeves, a thick jacket, heavy gloves and a face shield (thank you Dr. Starship!) because that's how I roll. Even though Velma was perfectly healthy and I've had two series of rabies vaccinations. That said, enjoy the worm mouth! And keepa you hands off da bats!


If I can't find anything handy by that will purr for me, I will close my eyes and remember the sound of your bats crunching mealworms.

I also can't pass up a teaching moment. Bats use sonar, not radar.

Sonar is a method of echolocation (ie using emitted sound) used in air or water by animals such as bats or whales.

Radar is a system for detecting the presence, direction, distance, and speed of aircraft, ships, and other objects, by sending out pulses of high-frequency electromagnetic waves that are reflected off the object back to the source.

Ah, I love it. Thank you Bruce Mohn. Brilliant!
I'll continue to proclaim my ignorance in the video. And I'll probably still make the error of referring to it as bat "radar" because old habits die hard. Radar Love and all that. But I'll now be able to stop and remember the difference, which is one I'd never detected. Thank you!

Loved the video and all the bat information!

As for handling the critters - no worries - I'll keep my distance!

Except for those which fly into my wife's hair ....

Have fallen in batlove with Velma, Stella and Mirabel.

Posted by Gail Spratley March 23, 2015 at 10:50 AM

@Gail Spratley, this is as it should be. You'd love them even more in person, if they weren't out flying free... It is a rare privilege to provide temporary housing for such miraculous beings.

Boy, Velma is chowing down! Love bats. Until we got the house painted (and the bat boxes came down), we had a packed house on the warm side where the sun spends most of the day. One summer day at twilight time, I counted 36 of the little guys fly out of one box (not that big of boxes I might add) and fan out in search of mosquitoes - God bless 'um! Hope to have them return this summer. Like Murr, loved Velma's lip-smacking enjoyment of those worms. Great stuff on your blog......C.

Hi Julie, I love your posts and would like to share them with people. Ok if I tweet or Facebook a link to your blog?


Posted by Anonymous April 1, 2015 at 11:07 PM

@Dea, every post here is equipped with sharing buttons at the bottom. Rarely used, I fear. I would love for you to share this. Thank you.


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