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Torpid Bat

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Oh, would that Drusilla the Big Brown Bat pup were this tractable all the time. If you're just tuning in to the special lunacy that goes on in my house every day, Drusilla was found on Halloween, clinging to a curtain high within the Riverside Artists' Coop Gallery in Marietta, Ohio. It was already darned cold and Drusilla wouldn't have done well simply released outdoors. To be exact, she probably would have died. So I took her in and waited for the next nice long spell of warm nights (above 60 degrees) when I'd be able to release her. And they never came. It stayed cold until it was far too late to even try releasing her downtown. 

Despite my hunch that she's just a babe from the past summer, Drusilla was never a sweet young thing. No, she's a narrrrsty bat. The ideal subject for cold storage, in my opinion. So she's my guinea pig and I must say, 2.5 months into this grand little experiment, that she's working out splendidly. Her first cold storage spell was a week, after which I took her out, weighed, fed, and watered her for several days, then put her back.

Then I left her out there for two weeks. She was fine. 

The last period of cold storage was a full month. No food or water for a month. Try that with your kitty cat. And here's how she is:

What she is, is torpid. She's too cold to do much other than look threatening. So she spreads her wings, squeals in a creepy Venusian way and bares her teeth and that's about it. When she warms up, though, whoa Nelly bar the door. Flat-out dangerous. It only takes a few hours for her to warm up to the point of eating, and two days later she's ready to rock. I'm hoping, for historical purposes, to get a video of her at her worst but I fear for the safety of my videographer Phoebe it will have to be shot through the sliding glass door of the aviary. I would like to show it to anyone who thinks you can pick up a bat with bare hands. And to anyone who's tempted to think that I keep bats for fun. No. I keep them so they don't have to die. If I could find an accessible big brown bat hibernaculum, I'd hang them up with their buddies and walk away. So fast.

Many thanks to my unwilling videographer, Phoebe Linnea, who is much, much less than thrilled to be in the aviary with me and Dru. And to Chet Baker, who insists on being present just to make sure I don't fall in love with another durned bat. 

No danger there, Chet Baker. I love Drusilla (for better or much, much worse) but she will never replace YOU.

photo by Sara Stratton

see her beautiful piece about this July visit to our sanctuary here.


so glad to know that your children aren't always thrilled to do the things you ask them to do. They always seem to be so into all the things that you do. My children were not always eager participants. I felt like I must have been less of a mother. Now I feel better about myself. Thanks for sharing all parts of your life as a Naturalist

Phoebe, I am glad to see you have learned a healthy respect for your guest bats. You show much intellegence!

Kathy in Delray Beach

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You guys need your own tv show. It'd be awesome (although I would be worried about tv superstardom going to the Bacon's head.

How cool! I worked on an exploratory field trip in the Black Rock Desert in NV on summer. We were doing a quick and dirty bat census for a grad student. The bats were caught in mist nets over a couple of hot spring pools, put in containers, and then evaluated in the morning when they were torpid. We had Big and Little Browns, a Pipestrel, and a Silver Backed Bat. We then turned them loose, but they had to warm up first. Turned out I had the only clothing that they could hang onto. Somewhere out there, is a picture of me with 5 bats hanging on my sleeve!

What a great video. I learned a lot. But do have to say that Chet Baker could have been in the credits as supporting cast. ;-) I laughed out loud when the camera moved down to show him in his "Get rid of that bat. I'm your true love" mode. And agree with Tai Haku--you need a TV show or be part of one.

I love your rehab videos! I always learn so much. Thanks for sharing these critters I otherwise wouldn't see!

Can't wait for the feeding. :) On another note - I have a house finch question. If you had a few house finches with conjunctivitis showing up at your bird feeders, what would you do? I'm wondering if cleaning all the feeders, ground, bath, etc. is enough or if I need to take the feeders down. I've done some research, but would really appreciate your thoughts! Thank you! Jennifer (

@Jennifer: When any bird with a contagious disease shows up at my feeders, I take them down. My reasoning is that this allows the sick birds to disperse and removes the ready reservoir of other feeder birds that could potentially contract this usually fatal disease. Especially remove water sources, as sick finches will often perch in birdbaths, defecating. Disinfect everything with a bleach solution and put it away until the birds have dispersed. This can be a period of several weeks. It's a hard, hard thing to have to do but conjunctivitis is a terrible disease and we're not doing any favors to any birds by inviting clean birds to come and be exposed to it. Just one of the myriad collateral problems associated with bird feeding! Thanks for asking. And think of the money you'll save. ;)

Aww, how did I miss this?

My children were not always eager participants. I felt like I must have been less of a mother. Now I feel better about myself. Thanks for sharing all parts of your life as a Naturalist

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