In the summer of 2011, a one-week old free-tailed pup was admitted with what appeared to be a severe bite wound to the forearm. Unfortunately, adult males sometimes bite baby bats who wander into their territory, and that appeared to be the case here. The wound was severely infected and would have cause a painful death to the pup in the wild. We treated the pup with antibiotics, pain medication and applied sterile Manuka honey to the wing twice daily. Within 10 days the wing was vastly improved. The pup continued to do well over the next 10 weeks. When full grown, and after receiving flight training, the pup was released back into the original colony where it was rescued.
Photos below were taken while the pup was nursing its milk formula from foam eye-shadow applicators which were removed from he wand. Click the photo to enlarge.
Mr. Impley is a Jamaican fruit bat who was retired to us in 1994 along with 14 of his roostmates. The bats were involved in DNA research, and samples of their ears and toes were removed using clippers. Needless to say, most of these bats were very frightened of people when they arrived. One bat, however, displayed a rather impish personality early on, so was affectionately dubbed “Mr. Imply” within a few days of his arrival.
Mr. Imply went into research as an adult so his exact age is unknown. In his younger years, he used to fly to caregivers to receive a special treat of melon, but as he has aged so did his desire to fly, so his twice-daily treats are now hand-delivered by his human caretakers while he hangs in a basket-roost that he shares with two elderly female bats of his same species. To date he is one of the oldest Jamaican fruit bats in captivity at 18 years and counting.
She spent the first ten years of her life in a New York apartment, in a dirty, bare, wooden-frame cage with a chicken wire ceiling. The young bat shared this cage with her only roostmate, her mother. The cage held no enrichment, no place to hide from the daylight, and no- where to sleep comfortably. Then, as fate would have it, the person who kept the mother and daughter bats in these conditions died, and their lives finally changed.
In January of 2000, Director of Mercer County Wildlife Center, in Titusville, NJ received the call about the bats after wildlife officials found numerous other exotic pets in the house of the man who had passed away. Their conditions improved at the center, and they were cared for by a staff of volunteers. Then, in a tragic turn of events, a rat made its way into the center one night and chewed into the cage that the mother and daughter bats shared. The rat attacked and subsequently devoured the mother bat, sparing the daughter.
The daughter was then transferred into a bird cage for safety, and moved to a different building. Because she now had no roostmate, the staff provided her with a stuffed StellaLuna bat doll with which she cuddled. She was used for public presentations for the next year. Then, in May of 2006 she injured and broke her leg while in the bird cage. After that, her health began to rapidly deteriorate.
In November of 2006, the daughter bat -now 16 years old- arrived to us lying in a box padded with
baby blankets. When the lid opened she looked up in fright with watery, old eyes that spoke of her past horrors. Her tiny body had a yellowish tint, indicating poor nutrition and possibly the beginning stages of liver disease. Her fur was sparse and patchy, and the foot of the previously broken leg pointed backwards in the direction it had healed. The knee in the opposite leg appeared to be swollen with arthritis, perhaps from the stress of only having one good leg with which to hang. The trip had taken its toll on her frail body, and at first we feared she might not survive.
But this tiny girl had fortitude; she fought her way back with all her might. We decided to call her Stella, both for the doll that helped her through her lonely period, and because of the popular book StellaLuna, a story about a mother and daughter fruit bat who become separated.
Unable to hang for the first few days, we placed Stella in a padded pouch that rested inside a small mesh enclosure until she was well enough to join the other bats in the flight cage (top photo). We started her on liver medication, and her coloring, along with her energy, vastly improved. Arthritis medicine helped her painful, swollen knee, and before long her eyes were clear and bright, and she could once again hang upside-down. As Stella’s health progressed, she was slowly moved into the flight cage, gradually spending more and more time until she was strong enough to remain there throughout the night. We created custom ‘Stella-sized’ hammocks in select locations in the flight cage, so she could rest her diminutive body and crippled legs during the process.
Within months, Stella was bright-eyed, inquisitive and full of life. She chose favorite toy as well, a miniature bird mirror with curly-cues around the frame.
During Stella’s final years, we tried very hard to erase her bad memories as well as the horrific sorrow she must have endured during the tragic loss of her mother. We filled her nights with happiness, good health and plentiful foods, brightly colored toys, and dozens of warm and cuddly bat friends.
This courageous little bat was with us nearly five years, having survived a bleak existence in a stark, wire cage with her mother. When she arrived, her lack of fur, dull eyes and stunted size confirmed she had endured more than any creature should have. Stella was a miniature delight who passed away peacefully in her sleep as she rested in the hammock she loved so much, amongst the comfort of her adopted family.
Rest in Peace precious Stella, your sweet soul will be forever missed.
Mekki is a female hoary bat that arrived injured during the winter of 2005. She was found hibernating amongst a group of dead trees, along a forest line in central Texas, by Mike Tyler and his daughter Melissa. Quite often dead or dying trees are cut down in Texas during the winter months and the timber is used to fuel fireplaces. Given the fact that trees are oftentimes brought down with chainsaws, Mekki’s fate could have been much worse. Mr. Tyler explained to us that he had no idea that some bats hibernate in trees. During the process of cutting down the tree the family dog had started barking and refused to stop, so he put down his chainsaw to investigate. It was then that Melissa, age 10, saw Mekki climbing up along the tree trunk dragging an injured wing.
Melissa had recently learned about bats in science class at her school. During her studies she had visited the Bat World website and learned what to do if you find a bats. She instructed her father to use a glove to rescue the bat because it might bite out of fear. He secured Mekki within the folds of an old t-shirt and placed her inside a box, and they drove home to call Bat World. A few hours later they arrived at our back door. Mekki was found to have open fractures to three fingers but otherwise she was in fine shape (and very lucky!). Her fingers were stabilized and she received pain medication and antibiotics to prevent her wounds from becoming infected.
Mekki is an extremely docile bats whose injuries prevented her from being returned to the wild. She enjoys her natural habitat cage and roosting with other non-releasable bats that share her housing.
Poopley came in as a foster dog and ended up a permanent and beloved part of Bat World Sanctuary. He came to us with a chronic intestinal problem, for which he became aptly named. During his time at the sanctuary, he witnessed our facility undergo major renovations, including enlargement of flight enclosures and the recovery room, and the coming and going of numerous visitors from around the world. Poopley was adored by hundreds of workshop attendees, and almost everyone took photos of him. He loved to dress up, his favorite costume being a bat cape and ears.
He was approximately 2 years of age when he came to Bat World, making him 18 years old when he passed away. One of his favorite spots was in the office, where he was on constant patrol for UPS and the mailman.
Poopley was cremated and is now with us in the office at all times. Good-by “Mr. Poopley-do”. Not a day goes by that you are not deeply missed.
White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is the greatest catastrophe to ever hit US bat populations. This poorly understood malady causes a white fungus to grow on the noses and wings of hibernating bats, ultimately causing death. The condition was first identified in several caves near Albany, New York in February 2006.
WNS is now showing up in the southeast. In February, 2010, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency confirmed that two bats found in east Tennessee tested positive for WNS. In less than a month, the fungus made a 250 mile leap to western Tennessee to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The cave in Tennessee contains the largest known Indiana bat hibernacula in the state. The Indiana bat is a federally listed endangered species. In mid-April, 2010, the Missouri Department of Conservation confirmed Missouri’s first WNS case. As the disease spreads to the Midwest and to other southeastern states, it threatens the federally endangered bats such as the Indiana bat, gray bat, Ozark big-eared bat, and Virginia big-eared bat, as well as some of the largest bat populations in the United States. Over 90% of the wintering bats in some New England caves and mines have died because of WNS. Research scientists working to identify the source of the fungus and learn why it is killing bats wonder whether they have enough time to find a solution. It has been four years and they are nowhere close to understanding what is happening, or how to stop it.
It was a hot, dry desert day in 1998 when a New Mexico lizard researcher came across a dust covered pallid bat. The bat was lying on the ground, weak and dehydrated. Back at the research station, the bat was given some water and a meal of crickets (a favorite food of pallid bats). After the emaciated bat had eaten his fill he seemed to smile in gratitude.
The researcher named the bat “Orkin” due to his ability to eat just about any kind of nasty bug. Intending to release bat, the researcher kept Orkin, feeding him his fill of bugs until he was strong enough to fly again. However, on the night of his release, Orkin continually bumped into walls during a practice flight inside the researcher’s cabin. Closer inspection revealed that Orkin was missing a key part of his ear, called the tragus, a flap of skin in a bat’s ear that is vital to echolocation and foraging for insects. Without the necessary “tools” to do his job in the wild, Orkin could not survive. His injured ear was the reason he was found grounded and starving in the first place. Orkin came to live at Bat World shortly thereafter.
He lives with other non-releasable bats of various species, in a simulated minature cave which sits inside a large, natural habitat flight cage. During the day Orkin likes to snuggle and sleep with free-tailed bats.
At night, he flies until his heart’s content, then goes back to polish off mealworms and crickets that fill dishes inside the cave.
Orkin has grown quite portly in his old age life, although he still enjoys life to the fullest. He was retired from the Adopt-a-bat program in 2012.
The winter of 2006 brought severe temperature swings in Texas, making it difficult for hibernating species of bats. Warm weather perhaps made the little bat stir from his sleep behind the bark of the tree that he had chosen for his winter roost. His actions did not go unnoticed by a large grackle. The bird used his sharp, black bill force the tiny bat to the ground. The scene was witnessed by a farmer, who originally thought the bird was pecking at some insects until he saw the small, winged creature struggling beneath the pecking grackle. He ran over to rescue the bat, and soon realized the little fellow needed urgent care.
When the injured bat arrived to Bat World, it was difficult to see his tiny face because it was soaked in blood. He was an adult evening bat, barely 2” in length as opposed to the nearly 13” grackle that attacked him. His head was grossly swollen from the injury, and his left wing was damaged.
After we administered pain medication, we gently cleaned his face to analyze the full extent of his injuries. Miraculously, his eyes were uninjured. We winced, however, to discover that his miniature nose was almost torn in half. We pieced his nostril back together and cleansed the open wounds on his injured wing. His tiny eyes blinked up at us as we were helping him, as if to say thank you. Our little battered soldier of the woods received antibiotics, fluids, and warmth for the next 72 hours. The swelling of his head slowly subsided. The following weeks were very difficult for him because he could not eat properly. His damaged nostril made it impossible to breathe through his nose while he was being hand-fed, so he frequently needed to stop and breathe through his mouth between tiny mouthfuls of food.
We were so very pleased, that a mere 3 months later, he was able to eat normally. The splendor of his good looks and personality speaks for itself, despite the fact that he is now marred by a deformed nostril on his left side and occasionally has to breath through his mouth. Mr. Nosey Nostrils, as he was affectionately named, is not releasable because of his injuries, but thankfully he has settled into the non-releasable bat colony. He continues to roosts with Mexican free-tail bats and is very partial to a pipistrelle bat named Holly, with whom he snuggles everyday.
The story starts with feral cats. As with many small towns, Mineral Wells, TX, the location of Bat World Sanctuary headquarters, has its fair share of stray cats. Several years ago two cats began hanging around the trash bin outside the back of the Bat World facility. Both cats were very thin and both were pregnant. Taking pity, we started feeding the cats, created a shelter, and a relationship began. One of the cats (later named Dumb Bell) had 3 kittens and promptly abandoned them. We watched in amazement as the other cat (dubbed Miss Kitty for the lack of anything more original) moved the abandoned kittens to the spot she had chosen for her 3 newborns, and proceeded to nurse and care for all 6 of them. Within two years, however, the situation had grown well out of hand when 14 cats and kittens of various sizes had taken over the back parking lot.
Upon looking for a humane solution over the internet, we came across the Trap, Neuter, Return plan (TNR), a rapidly growing program promoted in the US by Alley Cat Allies. The TNR program is the most humane and effective way to reduce feral cat populations. It is designed for homeless cats living outdoors in cities, towns and rural areas.
Kittens and tame adult cats are caught and adopted into homes if they are available. Feral adult cats are humanely trapped, then spayed/neutered and vaccinated. After recovery they are returned to their familiar habitat where they remain under the lifelong care of volunteers. Some people feel that the TNR program is destructive to wildlife. However, the destruction to wildlife is greatly lessened when wild cat populations are controlled and care is provided. One wild, unspayed cat is capable of exponentially producing a whopping 59,049 offspring in just 5 years, and cats that are regularly fed by caretakers hunt less wildlife as a source of food. Lethal methods to control wild cat populations do not work as they don’t get to the root of the problem. New cats take over the territory of the previous cats, and they will continue to breed.
We were able to find homes for a few kittens. Others were captured and taken to a no-kill shelter in a larger city. The two original cats remained. Miss Kitty was the first stray cat to enter our local TNR program. After her return from the vet she tamed a bit and allowed us to slip a collar and ID tag around her neck. Although still wild for the most part, she began hanging around a few hours each evening, allowing us to pet her at times. Not long after she began bringing us presents.
As any cat owner will tell you, cats have long been known to bring their owners little gifts of live bugs, mice and the like. Miss Kitty, however, brings bats. Not bats she has hunted and caught, but grounded bats that are in need of rescue. To date she has brought three grounded bats to Bat World. One bat was emaciated and dehydrated, with no injuries from being carried in her mouth. Another bat had a wing tear and was unable to fly (again, no injuries from being carried in her mouth) and a third had an open fracture, the exposed bone long-dry, indicating the break was at least a few days old.
The first two bats arrived during the fall of 2005. Each bat was deposited on the sidewalk while Miss Kitty sat close by, waiting for us to emerge from the back door, seemingly holding her stance to make certain it stayed in place until helping hands retrieved it.
These two bats only needed a short stay in rehab and were eventually returned to the wild (with, we imagine, harrowing tales to tell their roostmates when they returned!). Amanda Lollar, President of Bat World, had the opportunity to witness the third bat being brought to us in May of 2006. She was outside at dusk and noticed Miss Kitty scurrying across the parking lot toward the back of Bat World, carrying something gently in her mouth. Amanda cringed at the thought while hoping for the best. Miss Kitty gently laid the injured form at Amanda’s feet, then looked up into her face and proudly meowed while arching her back to be petted. Amanda bent to scoop the bat up with one hand while petting Miss Kitty with the other.
The dried bone in the little bat’s wing could not be repaired well enough to allow flight, so he is not releasable. However, he healed very quickly and has adapted well to captivity. To honor his rescuer he has been named Mr. Kitty. Mr. Kitty is now a permanent member of the indoor cave at Bat World Sanctuary. Oddly enough, like his rescuer, Mr. Kitty himself has a ‘take charge’ attitude and spends his time in multiple roosting rocks, seemingly checking on the activities of the other bats. Mr. Kitty learned to self-feed on mealworms and has grown quite plump. He does not, thankfully, bring us presents.
For information on starting a TNR program in your area visit alleycat.org.