Friday, August 12, 2011
Up Close Experience With a Red Bat
On July 1, 2011, while assisting with a mist net bird banding session for our summer interns, I had a first ever experience!
I saw something strange in the net, but wasn't sure what it was.
On one of our net runs, where we check the mist nets for birds, I took WBS intern Cassandra Braun up to the woods nets across from our lower feed station, which is on the road to our behind-the-scenes area (this road is opened to hikers). As we were walking up to one of the nets I could see something unusual in the net, but I was not sure at first what it was. Once we got closer I realized it was a Red Bat. Cassandra and I looked at it and then I sent her to get me some leather gloves.
It turned out to be one very angry Red Bat
In order to safely handle a bat I knew I would need heavy gloves, because they could possibly carry rabies. Remember, less than one percent of bats carry rabies, but gloves were a must.
All of the interns, Colleen (volunteer) and Linda (bander in charge and volunteer) arrived. Wearing the gloves I carefully removed the Red Bat from the net. We had a total of three gloves so I handed one glove over to Colleen to assist with holding the net tighter so I could get a better hold of the bat. We also used a crochet hook which we routinely use to assist us with removing the birds from the net. A few moments later the bat was out of the net.
Extracting the bat from the net with the help of heavy gloves and a crochet hook
This little Red Bat made plenty of noise to let us know just what it thought of all of the attention, and took every opportunity to bite the gloves. Fortunately the gloves did their job and his attempts to “defend” himself were futile. Everyone got to watch and those with cameras took photos. We released the bat away from the nets, but still close to the area where it was caught. It flew away chattering and voicing its opinion about the entire episode. It was an amazing experience.
He was very vocal about the whole experience
The bat in the net was a first for me. I have been bird banding for years in many different locations and have never caught a bat in the net before. I have seen many photos over the years of people mist netting bats as part of a study and I have always wanted to do that. I finally had my chance!
Avoid handling bats found on the ground, but if you must, never handle them without heavy leather gloves
The interesting thing is that this year I have been spending a lot of time trying to find Red Bats in the trees because I know we have them in the area, so finding this bat in the net was truly special. Because of my experience with animals, and particularly with our two bats at World Bird Sanctuary, it made for a safe extraction of this interesting mammal. Plus, it was a learning experience for everyone watching that day.
The Red Bat, Lasiurus borealis, is found in forests and forest edges from Southern Canada to Northeastern Mexico. They are common in Missouri and are our second largest bat in Missouri. They weigh 7-15 grams and have a 1-foot wingspan. Red Bats are nocturnal, but have been seen flying on warm winter days. During the day they hang 4 to 10 feet above the ground among dense foliage often mimicking dead leaves or pinecones. Red Bats are solitary except during mating and migration. The males are deep reddish brown with a distinctive white collar and adult females are duller orange or yellow.
This was a once in a lifetime experience
If you’ve never had a close look at a bat please be sure to visit our two Straw Colored Fruit Bats, Batty and Scar, the next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary. They are housed in our Nature Center, which is open 363 days of the year.