Late one evening in March of 2011, we received an email concerning a bat found in an open garage. It was right after a heavy windstorm involving gale force winds that a man discovered the bat among debris blown in to his garage. Using a glove, he was able to get the bat into a glass jar. He then found Bat World online and sent us an email, along with the photo below, asking for our help.
We determined the bat was a big free-tail (Nyctinomops macrotis), based on the size of the bat compared to the jar. Most disconcerting, however, was the unnatural position of the frightened bat, indicating he was too large to fit inside the jar. While his rescuer had the best of intentions in helping the bat, it is important to note that a jar is a highly inappropriate container for a bat, even temporarily. Glass allows too much light for the comfort of these animals who prefer dark seclusion, and the slick surface offers nothing for the bat to grip in order to comfortably hang upside-down. Additionally, bats use echolocation to orient themselves to their surroundings and these vocalizations only bounce around inside a jar, which can alarm a bat even further.
We gave the caller instructions on how to move the bat safely from the jar and into a secure box that included a padded floor, places to hang and hide, and a shallow dish of water. A meeting place was decided for the following day in order to transfer “Gimlet” to Bat World Sanctuary. Upon arrival at Bat World, Gimlet was thoroughly examined and although he was thin and dehydrated, he was in fairly good condition.
Big free-tailed bats are only known to colonize a few select places in Texas, so we determined that the extreme high winds we had been experiencing likely blew Gimlet off course. Little is known about his species other than they like to roost within crevices and cracks in high canyon walls. Unfortunately there are no known big free-tail bat roosts in north-central Texas (where Bat World is located) so we could not release him right away.
In July of 2013, with the help of a bat biologist and friend, Gimlet was finally reunited with his kind in Big Bend National Park in south Texas, where these bats thrive. He was released at nightfall and joined other big free-tailed bats already out foraging in the protected park.
His favorite food in captivity was giant meal worms, as evidenced in the video below. We were both honored and happy to care for Gimlet until he could once again return his rightful place in the wild, soaring high above the canyons with his kind.