Background Switcher (Hidden)

Meet Laura and Fuchsia, Big Brown Bats

Monday, March 6, 2023

 When I finally thought to check, I found out that my last rabies booster was in 2013. Wow, ten years can sure fly by! I dithered a bit and then set out in earnest, looking for someone who'd do an antibody titer for me. Finally, my new nurse and doctor at WVU Medicine came through. And I found out I'm still making sufficient antibodies to the rabies virus to be protected. That made me really happy--a lot of bats have gone through my winter hostel since 2013. Glad I don't have to drop $680 on the booster shots.

It's a privilege to care for these bats and learn from them, too. In my last post, we met Jolie Blonde, Poppy and Carmelo. There are two more females this year.


Laura came to me a real spitfire--musking (a skunky smell from their facial glands); chittering, sometimes biting a little (but nothing like Drusilla of Old, the Worst Bat Ever). Now she's my best, most eager eater and not too tough to handle. She has an endearing way of gaping between worms, literally like a baby bird. We are pals now, and she hardly cusses at all. She was found on Christmas Eve 2022, hanging under a utility table in an unheated outbuilding. The naturalists who found her would have been delighted to let her stay, but with the Arctic cold blast of single digit temperatures, we think she might have died out there. Especially since her weight on admission was only 11 grams. She's between 17 and 19 gm now! She'll eat 20 or more worms if I let her, and I'll have to cut her back to a dozen as spring nears...a girl has to watch her weight if she's going to fly!

Fuchsia has been a special little bat from the get go. She was found in the same tattoo parlor as Carmelo on Jan. 28. Skinny and wasted at 11 gm,  Fuchsia had to eat bird formula from a syringe for six nights until she was able to chew mealworms. That last night, I added Delectables Lickable Treat for cats to her formula, and it woke her UP. She was chewing mealworms like she was paid to do it that same evening. 

She did something I've never had a bat do. They all arrive like this--huddled like a tiny mouse.

But when I picked her up, she was so terrified she threw out her wings and opened her mouth! Which gave me a fabulous look at her impressive dentition, a definitive look at her female bits, a beautiful view of her long tail and tail membrane...this is the basket in which bats catch their food! See how the tail tip extends beyond the membrane? One of the hallmarks of a big brown bat.  For big brown bats, the food that ends up in that tail basket is mostly flying beetles, and some moths. That's why they've got great big teeth--so they can crunch down beetles. The bite of a big brown bat--or any bat, for that matter-- is unbelievably strong. I wear deerskin on my handling hand (left) and more pliable goatskin on my feeding hand (right). Deerskin has proven more puncture-resistant than other leathers in a study designed to determine which gloves are best for handling bats.
I can tell you that deerskin outperforms all other leathers in the Multiflora Rose Test to which I put my gloves every morning. Puncture-resistant to the max! If a thorn goes through deerskin, it's time to replace that glove, for it's worn too thin.

The perfection of Fuchsia's architecture was unbelievable. 

She clung, wings still spread, for that whole first feeding. I couldn't get her to relax but I eventually worked her around to a more comfortable pose. But gentle talking and grooming with a mascara brush has calmed her down nicely. This series of photos are all by Liam Thompson, my most invaluable bat helper.

It's hard to believe this is the same bat, but here's Fuchsia eating on February 9.  Amazing what good food and gentle handling will do for a frightened little bat. 


Wow-- those photos are amazing!

Amazing photos, I’ve never seen the underside of a bat and had no idea they used a membrane basket! Fascinating!

Thanks for all you do, Julie!

What a fantastic post, and those photos. I read the description of Fuchsia first and never imagined there would be photos too. Thanks, Liam!

I did not know that's how they catch their food! So the two patches between the back legs and the tail is the basket, correct?

I love that photo of Fuchsia with her wings extended! What amazing little creatures.

[Back to Top]