Since the inception of Going Bats in 2003, we have shared our activities with our friends through an annual Christmas letter. We hope that you will enjoy this synopsis of our efforts over the last 13 years.
On the home front, besides Bob's continued weekend work at Wild Birds Unlimited, we have once again been asked to join the renovated Soaring Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation group as board and active working members. And, as if raptor rescue was not enough, Bob has now also become a BAT rehabber, out of necessity, so he says, since there is no other help for these tiny flying mammals in our immediate area. So now our formal dining room has become a BAT ROOM, full of aquariums and cages, housing an assortment of displaced and injured bat species. Oh, well, it does give Crackers a new interest, watching Bob handle his winged and furry friends. And, Freckles, our newly rescued young cockatiel, finds Bob's bats much more stimulating than his aged, inactive cage mates!
Our first year of operation as "Going Bats" Rehab was a bumper year that produced many surprises. With the help of a great veterinarian, several trained and trusted friends that "babysat" our bats during our trips, and support from other bat rehabbers, we processed 25 bats of 5 different species! First, we found that bats are gentle, intelligent creatures that quickly learn to adapt to human schedules and "human" foods. We feed them mealworms and nutritionally-enriched strained banana and veal baby foods. Secondly, we found that bat parts are small, which makes sexing a little difficult! We learned this in April, when Ann exclaimed, "Bob, 'Langford' is falling apart!" Picking "Langford" up, we discovered 2 extra feet, attached to a naked little bat, whom we named "Shock." Then "Curley" "turned" into a< female, producing "Awe," followed by "Auburn," who produced tiny little twins! Most of our clients were displaced, 2 were orphans, and at least 5 had obvious physical injuries. The orphans were "nursed" using puppy milk-replacer, dripped by an eyedropper onto a sponge=tipped eye-shadow applicator that substituted successfully as a
"nipple." Unfortunately, we were unable to help 7 that arrived DOA or that were very badly injured. We still have 6 in rehab. The scariest and happiest part of bat rehab is when it is time for release. In the gathering dusk of a warm spring or summer evening, our small, furry friends sniff the air, sense others of their kind, spread their wings, and, with our heartfelt best wishes, soar off into the growing darkness in fulfillment of their destiny.
GOING BATS has consumed most of our energies with over 45 new residents, from "Jeff" (found in Jefferson Mall), a tiny 2 1/2 inch Eastern Pipestrelle fur ball, and Radar, a rabbit-like Northern Long-eared Bat, to "Heimlich Sloth," a beautifully multi-colored baby Hoary Bat. Heimlich, a cartoon character, was the name chosen by the boy who found him, but to us, it was the Heimlich Movement that fit this bat, since, at first, he severely choked on any food we gave him. Later, we named him "Sloth" because of his slow, deliberate movements among the foliage in his cage. Unfortunately, without his mom's encouragement, as is the case with many of the orphans, "Sloth" did not learn to fly by fall, so will remain in residence this winter with Bob regularly exercising his wings in hopeful preparation of a Spring release.
Although most of our wintering guests were displaced, rather than injured, one male Big Brown Bat presented a challenge to our creativity. His body was covered with some kind of industrial adhesive, and with his wings glued together, he could hardly move. The little girl who found him named him "Sparky, although this poor bat was anything but sparky! We began twice daily treatments similar to those given to oiled seabirds. Heated Canola Oil was rubbed into his fur to loosen the glue. Then "Sparky" was washed with Dawn Dish Detergent to free the oil, and rinsed with warm water. His fur was next blow-dried (With ears back, how "Sparky" hated that!) and brushed. Finally, he was offered a mealworm treat; he LOVED that part, and would often reach for the worm before Bob could get it near his mouth! After a week of treatments, "Sparky" was adhesive-free. Then one early summer evening, with overwhelming emotion, we watched "Sparky," now true to his name, with fire in his eyes and a flick of his wings, take off into the darkening night. Rehab does have its rewards!
Because of an overly cold Spring, and therefore a late release of our wintering bats, we were further "blessed" with an explosion of captive born babies, most appearing as twins. Thankfully, our mothers were great; after nursing their young, they, not us, taught the babies how to eat goop, then mealworms. As the youngsters learned to fly, all families were eventually released into our barnís wild nursery colony.
Unfortunately, we also received many pesticide and gasoline poisoned orphans, only being able to save a few. One severely gassed infant, fumed from farm equipment being started up right under the nursery colony, and displaying delayed development, was unable to fly well enough by fall to be released. So "Mon," still a baby by nature, has become our educational bat, and accompanies Bob on some of his many public GOING BATS presentations. Our little "Mon," with his constant vibrating purring and inquisitive curiosity, has become a true ambassador for all his kind. He loves meeting people, and the public quickly becomes endeared to his friendly, gentle nature.
2005 Merry Christmas
Just can't imagine that it's already time for another Christmas Letter! Anyway, time certainly flies when you are Going Bats! This definitely was the YEAR of the BATS. Bob's introductory letters to a variety of local agencies and his numerous slide presentations obviously have convinced the local population that these small, beneficial creatures are worth saving, for we ended the 2005 winter season with over 60 displaced bats! Luckily, most of our wintering residents were uninjured, so were placed, by groups of 10, in large, separate male and female netted and heated dog carriers; here they roosted "naturally" in small, padded sleeping bag pouches, behind "curtains,Ē or under "blankies," feasting on juicy mealworms and vitamin enriched water. When the warm Spring came alive with insects, their flying ability was tested in our new 35í\'x10'x10' flight pen that Bob constructed in the barn during two freezing winter seasons. Amazingly, all of the uninjured bats performed well, spinning, looping, and gliding in acrobatic circles around Bob and the in-pen obstacles he had created for their aerial examination. They then were successfully released.
But, DARN!, before spring came our pregnant females had already begun popping tiny, furless twins. So, one tent became a nursery colony. The moms were amazing, nursing their young in tight, warm, protective piles of adults and babies, automatically progressing to feeding their young overly-masticated, almost liquefied mealworms. Then, after offering only roughly chewed pieces to their furry, exploratory, growing babies, the mothers finally taught their 4-week, almost adult offspring to eat whole worms. We watched this fascinating adaptive progression in awe. We only had to provide the worms; the teaching and feeding process was completed by the bats. After the mothers completed an extraordinary aerial training program for their offspring in the flight pen, calling and encouraging their nervous balking babies to fly to them in ever increasing distances, we were able to release the entire captive nursery colony near our barn's wild nursery. This summer we also received 20 Big Brown orphans, requiring a mass assembly feeding line of formula 4-5 times per day! Amazingly, this year they not only survived our captive care, but thanks to our new flight pen, they could copy and learn their aerial skills from the adult females, who surprisingly allowed these orphans to fly with their own offspring. For optimum success, these young, parentless bats were released near their original colonies. From our small group of injured residents, we were able to exercise and release this year only those with disabling sprains, as well as Eve (who came to us the night before Christmas} with a nickel-sized hole in her wing that finally healed by late summer. The others, with injuries and breaks too severe for successful release, remain with us today, living in smaller, cozier tents. Their personalities are so different, and can change daily from "Grouchy City" to "Wappes actually smiled at me today!" Petey, a sweet female with a crushed ankle, and thus a "useless" foot, has learned to position that leg so that those uncontrollable claws stick securely into the netting. She has learned to move around the cage, and anchors those claws with enough stability to groom herself to velvet! She waits each night at the door of her tent for a cuddle from Bob. The injured males are a little more forward. Big Brown Wappes greets Bob with a loud, teethy chatter, only a jealous attempt for recognition (he gets a rub), since he knows that Larry, his tiny, cute Little Brown tent-mate, in competition, will always stick his unresistably friendly face from behind the curtain for his nightly mealworm treat.
Then there are our three flavors of non-releasable orphans, ----hoary, red, and brown! Recent observations have shown that those captive orphans, exhibiting problems that prevent them from flyingfree, will often die within 2-3 years of age. In mid-November, we, too, experienced this situation, as Sloth, our beautiful, deeply furred, gray and beige hoary orphan from last summer, unexpectedly and suddenly died from congestive heart failure as Bob was giving him his nightly cuddle! We miss our gentle giant, who never flew on his own. But how he LOVED to be hand flown! Lying prone in Bob's hand, held securely with thumb on his shoulders, Sloth flapped hard and PEED hard as Bob raced around the front yard, or in the house, creating an exhilarating air current for this enraptured "flyer." The harder Bob ran, the harder Sloth flapped ... and peed (that's what Hoaries do in the wild), watering our grass, Bob's hand, clothes, and sometimes our floor!! We will always remember Sloth's toothy grin as he happily whizzed with Bob around our country property! Abby, a tiny Red Bat, an orphan from late this summer, who LOVES to fly (unfortunately, a flight not strong enough for release), tragically and irreparably injured one of her fingers while persistently performing some aerial maneuvers inside her tent. So now a permanent resident, she has inherited Sloth's legacy, joyfully flapping around the yard as Bob still races in circles with winged ... and wet ... hand outstretched. The neighbors will get no relief from this over-the-line craziness!
And finally, there is Mon. Our brown "temporary" educational purring orphan from last summer also refused to fly this spring. In spite of all the tricks we tried, he simply looked up at us with his Big Brown eyes, wiggling his cute nose, and buzzily purred his way into our hearts. A source finally recommended a pulleyed racer toy of the '80's that ran down a string; her hard-to-fly bats apparently loved the rush of air as they rode this gizmo, happily flapping their wings in grateful independence of human touch. Since such a toy could not be located, Bob fashioned a simple, pulleyed platform of his own that slid down a string with enough stability for a passenger. Holding the toy and string high at one end of the flight pen, Bob put our furry non-flier on the narrow racer. As Mon gazed in horror into space at the floor far below, he immediately pulled wings, legs, and tail under his body, flattening his ears against a lowered head. And as he sped down the string toward the lowered end held by Ann, Mon became a streamlined LUGE Olympian with NO wings out, actually with nothing coming out of his flattened, straight body ... except terrified, panicked PEE! Reaching Ann, and safety, Mon scurried off the pee-soaked racer, dashed up Ann's arm, and launched himself off her shoulder, FLYING the entire 35-foot length of the pen! The rest of the summer Mon flew in loops and circles, enjoying his aerial abilities, even catching bugs from our in-pen black light. In August, when we thought he was ready, he was released, but several days later he returned to the top of the flight pen, trembling, thinner, and dehydrated. Once again safely in Bob's hands, Mon started purring, and hasnít stopped since! So Mon is now a permanent ambassador, already again delighting his audiences, either by close encounters or via closed circuit TV. Also with Ann's relatives from the East Coast coming for a short summer visit and enjoying their interactions with our unreleasable crew, perhaps Bob and our furry residents are even spreading the lore of bats beyond Indiana.
2006 Merry Christmas
This year we were filled to overflowing with an extremely busy bat season, bringing us a barrage of unique challenges needing immediate, skillful, and creative solutions.
The first challenge that any animal rehabber faces is the RESCUE, and Bob definitely experienced a couple of these memorable missions. One desperate call came from a man who found a bat on a slushy Ft.Wayne street, determined it was still alive, and threw it, unconfined, into the trunk of his car!! He got our name from the zoo and drove to our house with the free flopping bat loose in the trunk! When the back was opened, there was all kinds of STUFF (bags of books, clothes, and groceries, basket balls, foot balls, oil cans, toys galore, a baby stroller, and even a loosely rolling frozen turkey)!! Bob and the man emptied the trunk onto our snowy driveway, searching each overly stuffed bag, piece by piece, and finally found poor "Babe" cowering under the spare tire cover. She was bruised (perhaps the turkey had rolled on her?) and VERY grouchy, but calmed finally, and then graduated to a tent with other wintering female Big Brown Bats. In the spring, "Babe" presented us with healthy twins; she and her family were happily released in the early summer. The most dramatic rescue was in a Ft.Wayne cinema. During a showing of NARNIA, a bat was seen flying around the theater disturbing some of the audience. Animal Control was called, but they would not go because the ceilings were too high --- "Call Bob!" He had 40 minutes between shows to retrieve this bat, terrified by the movie's horrendously loud and primitive sound effects and clinging to the very top of the theater's curtain. The manager brought a 15 foot A-frame ladder, but even with Bob's extended net, he could not dislodge the frightened creature. So a straight ladder was inserted up through the middle of the 1st ladder, extending 30 feet vertically into space! Bob climbed this unsteadily waving ladder, while we secured the base below. Wrapping his arm around the top rung, Bob tried to dislodge the frightened bat with a shorter and firmer net, but the tiny terrified critter just would not let go!! The manager was wringing his hands, saying, "PLEASE don't fall, Bob; we don't have insurance!!" Finally, with a deep breath, and a short prayer, Bob went up one more rung, holding the top rung with one clenched, whitened fist. He then stretched his body and other arm out as far as he could reach and successfully grabbed the bat with his glove, then descended the vertical ladder with one hand, while holding the bat in the other. We received 4 free tickets for his effort. "Narnia," a male Big Brown Bat, needed some recovery time, and was released in late spring. You never know what the next call will involve! Oh, by the way, Bob did make that rescue within 40 minutes.
Following a bat rescue, the next challenge is TREATMENT. Our most amazing success story this year involved the rehabilitation of "Deistra," a female Big Brown Bat, named for a factory where she was bashed with a board and thrown out for dead in the snow. "Deistra's" initial treatment was a series of subcutaneous injections of fluids to rehydrate and stabilize her limp and unconscious body. After some revival, we attempted to feed her, but she could not open her mouth; in addition to a concussion, she had a broken jaw, but thankfully no other serious injuries. Four times a day, we fed her vitamin fortified milk replacement formula drop-by-drop, with an eyedropper gently placed between her closed lips. "Deistra" slowly swallowed her life saving "food." Since she could not yet crawl, we hung her by her toes on the rubberized side of her heated cage to rest. Slowly she recovered her ability to move around and to open her mouth slightly so she could ingest some strained baby food, viscera (insides of worms), and blended mealworms. But "Deistra" still showed no interest in life; emotionally her eyes were dull and her head hung lethargically. To hopefully break her depression, Ann took her for a walk outside one warm winter day. "Deistra" responded finally to the sights and sounds of nature by raising her head and sniffing the air! Progress accelerated from there. Eyes brightening, she began crawling all over us, and soon learned to self-feed on whole mealworms. Soon she was enjoying the company of other female bats in a communal roosting tent. Later, when some of her tent mates became mothers, "Deistra" happily became the "aunt," caring for any pups that were left hanging alone for a while by a tired mom. "Deistra" later flew well, and was released with the same mothers and pups in our barn's nursery bat house. We wish this gentle miracle bat a long and happy life.
Finally, RELEASING our charges is usually the best of our job rewards, but one such liberation for us resulted in a lengthy and remarkable experience. In early summer, Bob traveled to Munster, Indiana, (130 miles away) to retrieve a mother Red Bat with 3 attached fully furred infants; this tree-roosting family had been grounded, probably because of the persistent harassment by crows or blue jays. So the Munster family, "Lilly", the mom, and her tiny charges, "Hermann", "Eddie", and "Marilyn", joined the already overflowing baby booming bat room. "Lilly" eagerly downed some formula and blended mix, as well as an amazing glut of mealworms. She was gentle and trusting, and allowed Bobís examination of the 2 healthy boys, but "Marilyn" would not let go of her mom! After a call to Bat World in Texas, Bob realized that release of this family was imperative before the pups grew too large for mom to carry. For the next 3 days, we fed "Lilly", and whenever possible her babies, until the whole family appeared stabilized. "Lilly's" test flying was successful, so Bob prepared a small, camouflaged soft-sided cage to be hung about 10 ft above ground in a preserve down the road from us. On the 5th evening, tucked snuggly in their familiar cone-shaped towel, we placed the Munster family in the cage, took them to the wooded preserve, gave them our blessing, and wished them well. Alas, when we checked the next morning, "Lilly" had departed, leaving her tiny family abandoned and hungry. Hopefully, we left them there all day, but threats of severe evening thunderstorms forced us to bring them home! The babies happily sucked their formula and graduated to blended invertebrate delight, then to whole mealworms. They grew rapidly, first doubling, then tripling their size and weight. Covered with thick, soft reddish fur, "Hermann", "Eddie", and "Marilyn" quickly squirmed and wiggled into our hearts Mobility in their cage soon turned to flapping, then ended in show-off aerial loops, twists, and circles in the flight pen. They were finally ready for release, but were we? One evening in late August we released our 3 young charges in the same reserve where their mother now resides. "Marilyn" did a few wide circles around us and then landed on a small tree. After a few minutes, she took off again, deeper into the woods. "Hermann" just did one loop around us and then rocketed into the forested preserve. "Eddie" did several loops around us and tried to land in a small tree. However, he grabbed some loose debris and fell softly to the ground. So Bob picked him up and finally convinced him to release his clenched "security." "Eddie" then again launched and followed "Hermann" down through the woods. We could see all three for the first 100 ft or more as they easily and skillfully flew around trees and bushes. We think the release went very well, but it was bittersweet. Worrying all night, we wished the Munster family a long, safe, and healthy life.
2007 Oh Joy!!!
It's another Christmas letter from the Waltons!
"Going Bats" went into overdrive this year with an amazing total of 177 rescues, at one point having 114 bats filling our dining room. Thanks to Bob's growing rehab skills and the continued dedication of our volunteers, one of whom has thankfully decided to become a full-time "Going Bats" Rehab partner, we managed to release 85% of these tiny, furry, beneficial creatures. But the Rehab business is not just about the bats; it also involves the intriguing variety of people we meet. Many of the callers who have contacted us out of fear, or hatred, toward these in-house "freaky," free-flying furballs, make at least a partial attitude turn-about after a visit from Bob with his calming and practical information, photos, and stories ... and, of course, with their "terrifying" bat safely "incarcerated." But most people, whether positive or negative about the subject of these flying mammals, have strong, questionable feelings concerning the sanity of a couple that would have a house full of BATS! One person, in fact, became particularly critical at this "in-house picture," as the following rescue illustrates: At 5 AM Christmas Eve (Bat rescues are not always conveniently timed), "B-r-r-ring" "Huh? Hello?" "The Auburn Police said we should call you. Grandma found a bat in the shower. She wants it removed IMMEDIATELY!" By 5:30 Bob reached the house 15 miles away, and found two bathrobe-clad women standing in the driveway. He quickly went to the shower, picked up the bat, and put him in a container. "Would you please look around the house for more bats?" Half an hour later Bob was standing in the kitchen explaining that "Little Guy," as they named him, probably came in when they had the door to the garage open. After refusing to look at the bat, Grandma asked, "Where do you keep the bats?" "In our dining room." "Are you married?" "Yes." "How long?" "Forty-one years." Then, with sharply focused eyes, she skeptically snapped, "HAPPILY?" As Bob left, Grandma was heading toward the bathroom with a large bucket and a bottle of Lysol!!!??? "Little Guy" was released this spring.
Then, of course, there are also the genuine heart-felt caregivers. Ann received a call, for example, from a distraught couple in a farming community about 25 miles north of us. They had found a tiny, furless baby bat on their barn floor, an infant that had dropped from a wild nursery roost over 50 feet up in the rafters, surviving only because of its small size and tough skin. They were desperate, and offered to bring the baby to us in order to save valuable time for repair. Arriving with amazing speed, the man came struggling up our sidewalk with a HUGE 10-gallon bucket that he could hardly manage, draped to the ground with a large bath towel. Ann wondered, "Just how big is this baby?!!" When uncovering the bucket to reach the rescued infant, she first removed a damp cloth used to keep the baby hydrated, followed by another soft towel that was gently covering a folded woolen ski cap. Opening this hat, Ann found a teeny, 1 1/2" tot, 2 days old, sleeping soundly in his warm, moist environment. The ski cap was sitting on another larger towel that was covering a bucket full of SOD!! No wonder the man was struggling! The couple watched her examine the uninjured infant, and when she put the baby safely in our soft, cozy incubator, they finally returned home, but called every few days until "their" bat was stabilized. "Brockman" was released this summer.
After 5 years of bat Rehab, we thought we had seen it all. But this year, again, brought many different challenges. Autumn 2006, for example, was almost Spring-like, resulting in a scattering of aberrant December births (May and June's bug-renewing warmth is the usual time for female bats to give birth). In January, however, Bob received two partially furred babies from two different locations, plus a pregnant mother who almost immediately popped tiny male twins ("Pete" and "Repete"). As a result, the winter started with us already involved in the intensive infant care and frequent feeding progression, a process lasting until early spring. Because of their poor start with hibernating mothers unable to find food, the two cuddly, clinging orphans were not independently releasable until well into the summer. But "Pete" and "Repete" fared better; still able to continue their nursing with a mom fed fat by Bob, the twins were released with their mother and all our other wintering residents in the spring. A gentleman, remodeling his house, created our other winter challenge. He found "six" bats in some extracted insulation. Arriving for the rescue, we were met by a nervously worried homeowner who had drastically underestimated his Brown Bat population. It had increased to a final total of 19 furry hibernating squatters! It took Bob 4 long hours to complete the intake and examination of each bat in this "colony," a mixture of adult males, females, and juveniles. This group added 2 1/2 hours of individual handfeeding to his 3-hour daily workload. After a week of "going bats" insanity, it was decided that this wintering addition should be re-hibernated. We finally concluded that one of the upstairs guestrooms could be used for this project (Don't worry, itís not the one you'll be staying in). Closed off and unheated, the temperature was a perfect 55. But the humidity? It takes 2 humidifiers to bring our isolated bat room to 40%. But, when testing this prospective location, the moisture level in this room was an already impossible whopping 52%!! Scowling about this !!!!! humongous humidity problem, Bob growled, "Another thing to fix!" Ann, however, dancing around and clapping, exclaimed, "Don't fix it! We've got a bat hibernation room!" Ann got her wish; the "colony" of 19 was re-hibernated and totally released in the spring.
Finally, there was that one miraculous rehab challenge. Because of a cold, wet, extended spring, there was a baby boom in the bat room! Seventeen infants were born to our wintering residents. Two of these captive pups were rejected, for some reason, by their mother at 10 days of age. In spite of continually placing these wee wandering babies back in the closely clustered colony, the siblings were abandoned again and again. We knew finally that those rejected orphans would have to be raised by us When they were closely examined, we discovered, in horror, that the more fragile female had no eyes ... no bumps, or slits, only smooth facial skin where the eyes should have been! Her brother, on the other hand, was a wide-eyed pup, easily reaching for the eyedropper filled with rich baby formula. For one week Baby "Braille" needed to feel this eyedropper "nipple", and a bit of liquid, touch her lips before sucking out that life-giving formula. Then suddenly at 3 1/2 weeks, "Braille" developed fused eye slits that slowly began to open. Gradually, with TLC and good nutrition, her eyes became as widely bright as her brother's, but the use of sight was limited. When, at 6 weeks, "Braille" dashed out of her pouch and grabbed a worm, we cheered!! From then on, "Braille" and brother "Midget," always inseparable, romped around in their tent, snatching worms out of the dish as they dashed by, and in 8 weeks the siblings were flying loops around the large flight pen at night. Our miracle baby and her brother were released together during the summer; we wish them a free-flying and healthy life full of juicy, buggy treats!
Tragically, not all rehab is successful, no matter how hard the effort. During their daily jog, a young couple in a near-by town found a dead bat on the side of the road. When curiously picking it up, they discovered two teeny, furless babies, umbilical cords still attached, desperately clinging to their mother's nipples. Bob rushed to the rescue, immediately incubating, hydrating, and feeding these skinny, newborn pups. "Kathy Lee", with her consistent weight gain, became a lively little bat, and was released in late summer. However, "Regis" (The couple named them) remained puny, struggling with determined effort to survive; after 2 weeks, this brave little soul, still almost at birth weight, lost his battle. We sadly buried him beside his mother.
The two weeks following this last trip were filled with 9 school bat presentations (Halloween time). Speaking of bats, we have just one more photo for you, for us, a symbol of hope? If these very different needy souls, a puny, underdeveloped Big Brown crevice-dwelling orphan and a lonely, but solitary foliage-roosting baby Red Bat that lost her mother to a cat, can cling, hang, sleep, and eat together, nurturing each other throughout their growth until amiably separating into their own different environments, their success should also hold promise for our own scrapping world.
Have a peaceful and nurturing New Year.
It's already that time to welcome everyone into our home to deluge you once again with a year of extraordinary, eclectic experiences.
GOING BATS ended another strenuous season with a full house of 120 furry fellows, pushing our 6-year total to almost 600 microchiopteras. unfortunately, the cold, extended spring, with its lack of insects, weakened the post-hibernating adults. Many of the rescued bats were either severely emaciated or injured from an assortment of aerial accidents. The result was a table filled with a colorful collage of containers, each labeled with a different drug for a particular patient. Hours were spent each day attending each ailing invalid. With so many irreparable broken bones, the number of our non-releasables has almost doubled. One unexpected addition to our in-house crew is "Ariel," a magnificent Hoary Bat with a shoulder injury that even our best efforts could not repair. Thus, we have our first amputee, a gorgeous, gentle giant that has become one of our educational ambassadors. Snuggled securely under Bob's collar, she accompanies him to his presentations, delighting his audiences as she slyly sneaks a peek to coyly canvass the crowd.
With underfed Moms, the rescued orphans were not as strong as usual, and took longer to mature. Flying was difficult for some of the slower students, such as poor "Fozzie!" Always a restless rascal, in the flight pen this rather retarded runt would run up and down Bob's arms and across his back and neck, tilting his head and moving his ears in increasing desperation to follow his frolicking, free-flying friends. Finally he figured it out --- just hold your wings out! So "Fozzie" leaped off Bob's shoulders with wings outstretched (no flapping) and fell with a thump to the floor. He then looked up at Bob with a panicked, puzzled expression, as if to say, "Whatís this? I did it right!" For the rest of the summer he managed some mini-flights, but was afraid to be airborne for those long, lingering lengths. So "Fozzie" stays with us for a snowy season of safety.
In the midst of our baby bat season, a racing pigeon in a contest from Topeka, KS, to Springfield, IL, forgot to slow down and ended up in our garage. Refusing to leave, he settled stubbornly in his new home. Per instructions from his IL owner, after a 5-day nutritional fill-up, we transported the wayfarer 10 miles to the west and let him go for his 250-mile flight home. He arrived safely in Springfield. At least ONE successful release!
During the past year, Bob has taken his new Power Point Bat Program to over 40 audiences, including public, private, and charter schools, garden clubs, scouts, church groups, nature centers and camps, Animal Control, and DNR. He also has spent hours in phone calls and home visits to assist the population in developing a more positive attitude toward these beneficial buggers. Bob often suggests simple solutions for either a happier habituation with the harrowing homesteaders or a cessation of combative conflict with the insistent intruders. Most homeowners are satisfied with the results of his reasonable recommendations, but there are also the fanatic followers. On Halloween, for example, Bob received a call from a man he had talked to sometime in the summer. This jittery gentleman had had a bat flying in his bedroom. So Bob had suggested he close off this room and open the windows at dusk, as per his usual instructions. On October 31, this man asked, that since no more bats had been seen since that summer call, could he NOW shut the windows?
Our world-wide introduction of bats continued this year with a visit from an acquaintance from Florida who happily hand-fed our friendly Phoenix, a blind Big Brown Bat. Then Bob familiarized his sister's family from Australia with our assortment of insectivorous inmates, an exciting experience for his young nephews whose only bat contact had been the colossal colony of Flying Foxes near their home Down-under.
2009 Merry Christmas!
Itís hard to believe that the calendar has swung full circle already, as we are still recovering from our most exhausting year of rehabilitation ever. We WERE truly "Going Bats." This past year Bob rescued and cared for 200 needy critters; later 175 of these beautiful and beneficial bats were successfully released to continue a long, free, and useful life in the eternal cycle of nature. Thankfully, one of our former volunteers, now trained as a full-fledged bat rehabber, has joined our forces. Karen housed 50 of the wintering bats.
Throughout our 7 years as rehabilitators, we have developed a standard system of communication with the public that hopefully has resulted in less fear, and more respect, of these mysterious, but marvelous, creatures. When a bat is rescued, for example, the callers are asked to name their bat. We later send the families a photo of their furry friend snuggling in Bob's hand, as well as a postcard with the date of its release. Word of Bob's patient protocol has apparently spread, as this year many of the callers had already named their bat, resulting in an array of fascinatingly unique labels decorating our batroom cages. There was the perfectly groomed, shiny "Zsa-Zsa," found outside a Neiman-Marcus Dept. Store; poor gummy "Gene," strenuously struggling in a glue trap at the Gene-Stratton Porter Historical Site (she was removed successfully and later released); "Barry Valentino," bothering a busy business on Valentine's Day; slim and slippery "Sam the Bat," an escape artist that had been tossed around by a Pastorís "Sam the Cat;" bouncy "Batty Black Panda MuŮoz," brought to us by an apparently indecisive 2nd Grade classroom; salty "Salta," stuffed in a recently emptied pretzel jar; Big Brown "Bootie," hiding in a toe of a boot, as someone shockingly discovered; soppy "Suds," who fell unexpectedly from a washcloth into a sink of warm, soapy water; "Me-agan," who found her way 5 times into the same house; wiggly "Wallie" from Wal-Mart, etc., etc. Oh, of course, who could forget the small, scared "Scream," named by a husband whose wife "found" the bat tumbling out of the kitchen blinds as she was closing them for the night!
Although the full house of wintering bats kept us hopping, there was an even fuller house of summer babies. Our wintering females presented us with 22 infants, all of whom were monitored several times a day. Fortunately, the gals nursed and fed their babies so proficiently that whenever the tents were opened for our daily check-ups, we were met with an eye-full of healthy pink butts scurrying under the moms! We also received several adult females, with babies attached, who had been grounded for various reasons. One such situation involved a family of Red Bats, a mother with 3 10-day old pups. Since this species is a Foliage Bat that lives only in trees, we provided the family with a large, soft reptarium filled with hanging grapevines. Though "Krissie" nursed and cleaned her babies with great dedication, only two of four nipples seemed to be flowing properly. So, we had to supplement her pups at least 4 times daily. It was a treat to open the reptarium and find "Krissie" hanging from a branch nursing her tightly clinging brood. As we fed her babies, this devoted mom also received some supplements to keep her milk flowing. The pups grew rapidly, and soon were eating mealworms beside their mother. After five weeks, all 4 Reds flew well, with the young crew closely following their mom around the flight pen. Finally one evening, with mixed feelings, we placed all 4 bats high on a tree trunk in a near-by reserve, and left the family closely snuggled together in this beautiful natural setting. Checking early the next morning, they all were gone. We wish "Krissie" and her small family a long and happy life. The last group of summer babies was an overload of orphans. These tiny motherless and furless creatures had to be entirely raised by us. We received a group of 13 babies rescued tragically from an undesirable and dangerously unsafe location. Seven more orphans came from an old house north of us whose owners thankfully wanted to save their babies who were starving from a cooler, unusually bug-free season. Ten more abandoned infants, rescued singly from various locations, completed our crew of 30 tiny orphans that ranged from 1 - 10 days old. These furless babies required incubation and feedings every 3 hours. It was a grueling process, with perhaps 4 1/2 hours of sleep each night for 2 months, but miraculously we managed to save and release all but one little female with a non-reparable injury to her wing who now is a delightful little ed bat. The most rewarding release involved the 7 from that old farmhouse up north. One evening, just before their colony of 200 was due to fly from its roost high in the eves, we introduced the now flying juveniles to their old soffet holes. As Bob stood high on a ladder, holding them close to the cavities, the pups suddenly became active. Rapidly twitching their long ears and buzzing with excitement, they eagerly crawled into their old, familiar birthing sites! Then, as the skies darkened, our babies joined the emerging colony streaming out in graceful groups until over 200 flying figures filled the sky, actively diving and darting for a now more seasonal supply of supper! The owners were dancing with pleasure; we gratefully thanked them for saving these beautiful babies. Finally, our educational outreach this year involved over 50 power point presentations by Bob in schools and for nature groups, as well as an endless procession of home visits, in order to promote the beneficial importance of a healthy population of bats in the natural cycle of life.
Thanks to Karen and our bat volunteers, one of whom actually, and thankfully, house-sat for us, we were once again able to experience a few ventures from home. Our first get-away was a short winter weekend of birding with another couple in Sault St. Marie on the upper peninsula of Michigan. It was a fun and relaxed break, with views of Snowy Owls, Hawk-Owl, grouse, and a variety of northern finches uncommon in our area. The scenery was magnificent. In the mornings, fluffy, powdery, untouched snow softly covered the densely forested landscape, while in the mid-day sun, the wilderness sparkled.
2010 Merry Christmas!
Wow! Another fast, busy year packed with a room full of furry critters!
During the winter months Bob again received over 100 bats, but this year our hard-working partner, Karen Silvers, rescued many and housed half of these homeless guests. Most were uninjured, so the majority were released in the spring. After 8 years of operation, "Going Bats" has housed over 930 furry residents with an 80% rate of release.
Our main problem this year concerned the summer orphans which came in several groups from various agricultural areas, where homeowners agonizingly found piles of dead adult and baby Big Browns on the floor of their barns beneath well established nursery colonies. The few surviving newly born babies from each bunch were rushed to us. We struggled for weeks to saturate these weak, skeletal, bug-infested infants with incubator warmth and humidity, nutrition, and TLC. Suspecting pesticide poisoning, in the end we were able to save only 3/4 of these precious pups.
By the close of summer, the 7 small survivors finally metamorphosed into beautifully velvet, adult-sized acrobats, gracing our flight pen each evening with their awesome aerial activities. Since an 8th baby, rescued at 1 week of age from a lovely Gene Stratton Porter wooded lakeside park north of us, was raised with the 7 survivors, we decided to release the total package of 8 pups at this natural historical site. (The other orphans obviously could not be returned to their original agricultural situations).
On a magnificent, moonlight evening, we released our 8 healthy, strong-flying juveniles in this bat-friendly setting. "Gene," who originally came from this site, flew immediately to the roost where he was born, proving that these creatures do indeed possess site fidelity. The 7 agricultural survivors scattered silently into the woods. OOPS, except for "Wrinkles" (named because of a long delay of fur growth, causing his ever-increasing bulk of skin development to wrinkle up like a young Sharpei). "OH, NO!" "Wrinkles," making a sharp turn, suddenly headed for the near-by lake! Finally pooing out, this poor pup softly landed on the water 150 yards out!! By the time Bob had ripped off his shoes and had hurled his pockets-full of stuff at Ann for a desperate swim of rescue, "Wrinkles," also making a desperate floppy paddle of survival, had already covered 2/3 of the distance to dry land! Dashing down to the shore, Bob reached the water's edge just as this panicked pup touched the stony beach. Scrambling up Bob's pant leg, "Wrinkles" tightly snuggled in the outreached familiar and friendly hand, started purring, and hasn't stopped purring since! "Wrinkles" will be over-wintering with us, as this terrifying experience has, for the moment, blocked his desire to fly; instead, he prefers to spend his time safely snuggled under Bob's collar or in his tightly-wrapped hand. "Wrinkles" has also been joining Bob in his classroom presentations, delighting the children with his strong purring vibrations felt from the safety of a dark quilted pouch that Ann hangs around her neck. We hope that "Wrinkles" will forget his watery ordeal by next spring so that this healthy, vibrant individual can be released to join his wild friends in the natural cycle of life.
Educating the public about the benefits of bats is an essential part of our efforts. During the past year, Bob again presented over 50 power-point programs to the usual schools, nature groups, community outreaches, etc., as well as delivered a college lecture and spoke at in-services for both a regional Health Dept. group and an Indiana Rehabbers Association. Approximately 2000 children and 750 adults have attended these presentations. To promote the conservation of bats, Bob also made 44 home visits and has spent hours on the phone attempting to develop livable arrangements between edgy homeowners and these insect-controlling connoisseurs.
Once again, Merry Christmas from the Walton household! This past year our home, and Karen's, overflowed with the activity and chatter of more than 165 batty boarders. In nine years of operation, Going Bats has rescued over 1000 furry fliers with the successful release of more than 800. Our bat programs continue to be regularly requested by schools, nature groups, community organizations and health departments. A very special honor this year was an invitation to host a ďBat DayĒ with the Indiana Nature Conservancy, which included both an adult and 'kids' power point program followed by a happy, high-spirited hands-on Batsy Kraft session with attending families. Of course, our amiable education ambassador, Stubby the Bat, was definitely the favorite feature of the festivities.
We had a mixture of bat species and bat experiences. Unlike the uniform Big Brown parade of 2010, three more species colored our bat room this year. Our first variant visitor was "Chessie," a juvenile Red Bat, who, without his mother's guidance, had missed the message to migrate south. This small, skinny, fox-red fur-ball spent the winter "hibernating" behind the rubber lining of his soft-sided, vine crisscrossed butterfly cage, emerging from his secret hiding place only to eat mealworms from his bowl Flattening himself between the layers, he hid so well, that missing mealworms provided the only evidence that he was still at home. On a warm spring evening, Chessie was released in a nearby nature reserve.
We also received a magnificently beautiful Hoary Bat that had been found by a rehabber in northwest Indiana just before Christmas. Since it was the wrong season for release, the bat had accompanied this person during the winter months on country wide vacation and business trips, sharing car seats and motel rooms, and even sampling strained baby foods and fresh fruits when mealworms were not available! When they returned home in the spring, the apparently healthy bat would not fly. Even when gently tossed into the air, the poor creature free-fell to the floor with a soft thud. The rehabber then brought the bat to us for an extensive examination and fervent flight training. An inspection showed that the bat was indeed not injured; she was just way too fat! "Velvet", named because of her thick, soft and well-maintained coat, was dangerously obese, lying in our hands like an over-extended, flabby, rubbery pancake. She was immediately placed on a diet and exercised every day. Slowly her weight came down and she started to flap her wings. With this encouragement, Bob initiated short sessions of hand-flying in the house, then took her outside to whiz (pee and poop-the bat, not Bob) around the front yard. One day, when her strength had increased, she surprised him and took off, fortunately not high enough to clear the hedge. With great expectations, she was then taken to the flight pen, where after two days, this smart bat, determining that escape was not possible, ceased flying. So now Bob and the bat raced around the yard, BOTH morning and night, with increased pace and longer sessions until one day, Velvet, ferociously flapping and head extended in absolute ecstasy, almost yanked Bob off his feet. Her strength and speed had outclassed her coach! It was time for Velvet to go! We took her to a nearby nature reserve on a warm spring evening. She sat on Bob's hand, sniffed the air, but made no attempt to leave. Encouraged by some hand flying, her flapping wings finally caught the air currents. Launching herself from Bobís grasp, Velvet flew in a large arc around the opening and disappeared into the forest. A magnificent flight to watch and we wish this gentle, gorgeous gal a long and happy life!
"Pixie," a tiny, Long-eared Bat, rarely reaching our region, was our third special species. He was found early this fall, taking a siesta during his southern bound migration, in a house where his presence was unappreciated. This little critter, as cute as a bug's ear, stayed with us for just a few days. After filling him up with a menu of minute mealworms, he was released to continue his disrupted course to the southern Indiana caves.
Finally, among our usual number of wintering Big Browns was a challenging group of thirteen, disturbed from a cozy, cushioned corner of isolated insulation during the reconstruction of a residential home. Using a humid, unheated spare bedroom as a hibernaculum, a room with an outside crack that Bob had added to his program of procrastinated projects, the bats were installed in a fleece lined cage. They were awakened, rehydrated and fed every two weeks for the remainder of the winter. When warmer weather returned in March, four fattened, gluttonous females were separated and brought down to the heated bat room to continue their obvious pregnancies in comfort. While the remaining males and females waited in their cooler, but gradually warming winter roost until late April when they were test flown and released, our bat room experienced an increase in population as these predicted pups were popped. One female, on Easter Sunday, produced two pups, Bunny and Egghead! Another fat female gave birth to two tiny tots, Mite and Midge, while the third set of twins were named, with our lack of creativity, AK (Akron, IN) and FU (Fulton County, IN). The fourth female, who was not as fat, produced only one pup, Peek-a-boo. He wasnít seen until one morning when a well-developed, fuzzy head poked out from under his motherís wing! These four females became great parents, feeding and raising their little pups, then teaching them to fly. It was an absolute delight to watch the funny, furry "fledglings" tail-chasing their agile elders! They were released as a group.
As you can tell, naming our charges can be fun. With over 20 captive born babies this year, our bat room was filled with a colorful cast of characters, such as Serenity, from a women's abuse shelter whose offspring were named Patience and Happy. There was Hayes from a local insurance company with her boisterous baby Hey! From the DQ we had Large Frosty with her pup Mini-Blizzard. Then we had fast flying Comet with baby Moonbeam and, finally, our Halloween treat Weenie popping her two surprises Spooky and Pumpkin.
As fulfilling as rehab appears, it also has its' downside. Wrinkles, the juvenile that landed in the lake last summer and executed that successful survival swim to shore, still remains too frightened to fly. So in spite of his physical fitness, he is psychologically unreleasable, and is now earning his living as an educational bat. There also was a stream of furless infants dropping like flies from their nursery colony high in a horse barn that had been sprayed with pesticides. The poisoned pups, lying helplessly on the floor, had little chance of survival; we were able to save only a few. Then a tiny pup arrived with an unsuspected twisted intestine whose tummy blew up like a balloon when given formula for the first time. Later, in the fall, there was a seemingly healthy bat, brought to us for the winter, which, after two days of self-feeding, suddenly and unexpectedly hemorrhaged from the probability of rat poisoning. And finally, we received several battered bats with broken bones caused by homeowners trying to capture the unwanted creatures with tennis racquets and metal-rimmed fishing nets. But thus far there have been more successes than failures, so we continue.
2012 Merry Christmas
Once again from those batty Waltons, although this year Going Bats was not so crazy; good to have a breather! Thanks to an unusually warm winter, our furry friends were able to stay the season snuggled securely in their household hibernation hideouts. Our Big Brown Bats usually over-winter in warm residential attics and insulated areas near their hunting grounds, instead of making the journey south to the isolated caverns. This recent seasonal pattern has protected the majority from the cave-induced White-nosed Fungus affecting so many of the bat populations. However, their non-migratory attitude has instead put them in jeopardy of terrified homeowners who abhor their presence. This year the warm weather kept these critters cozily secure without their need to search in the homes for more comfortable spots. So we received less than half our usual population of wintering bats, and those who resided with us were fat, healthy, and released in the spring. Our area also suffered a severe summer drought with little bug activity, causing the natural baby bat population to crash. Although receiving very few orphans, several situations remain significant.
A baby Big Brown was found on a visitor in one of the state prisons!! We never were told JUST WHERE on the individual this infant was hiding, or WHY the puny pup was being taken to the penitentiary! "SMUGGLES" quickly grew from a tiny tot to a friendly fur ball, purring his way into our hearts. He was released into the FREE world this fall.
Another Big Brown pup was left alone in an empty home after the owners had moved. This teeny runt (probably rejected by his mom) was fortunately found, in an also rejected unsaved sweater, by a home decorator hired to redo the residence for sale. Lonely little "Scholls" snuggled tightly in our hands, but was much too tiny to put with the larger and more aggressive Big Brown orphans. We gave him instead the companionship of a couple of Red Bat pups. So a small enclosure was prepared for the Reds, foliage-roosting bats, with a sleeping pouch for "Scholls," a crevice-dwelling bat. Immediately they hung out together, purring and sharing meals, always tightly entwined! After a month, "Scholls" had grown to his normal size and was united with his own Brown kind. The three were later released in their appropriate environments.
Finally, we received from another rehabber a mother Hoary Bat with her almost full-grown pups to be test flown, since this person had no flight pen. Unfortunately, with no summer exercise, their muscles were not strong enough to fly. So mornings and evenings, Bob raced in the yard, hand-flying the family to form strengthened flight. Mom passed the course first, demonstrating such strong flaps that one evening, pulling Bob along, she escaped from his hold, and, without a wave of "Good-bye," disappeared into the darkness. With her family grown, Mom was ready to go. We wish her well. Fall came too soon, though, for her pups. Their release was put on hold until the distant return of spring.
2013 Merry Christmas
Another year is winding down with the Walton Bat Room (er, Dining Room) experiencing a steady stream of displaced drifters. This year our wintering bats, although thankfully uninjured, were suffering instead from severe emaciation after an insectless summer drought. So feeding, test-flying, and freeing was our easy winter's work. However, we were seized by some stressful scenarios during the "lazy" summer season.
Late in the spring, Bob fielded a frantic call from a farming community about 2 hours away. A family had discovered that their copious colony of bats in the barn was dropping a deluge of babies down on the ground. Driving to Plymouth, Bob found a floor full of falls, some struggling to survive, while others had succumbed. Sadly assessing the situation, he saw hundreds of bats, roosting 75 feet high, so squeezed and compressed in a small corner of the roof that as birthing proceeded, the poor pups were pushed out! Installing some bat houses was the obvious solution. But in rapid response, Bob drove 10 miles for a tarp to act as a safety net to catch the small drops. Though uncomfortable with heights, he climbed a long ladder as high as he could, and tied the large tarp right under the roost. Then placing the small survivors way up for their return, Bob left that sad scene for his long, weary drive home. But half-way through that ride came another crisis call! A songbird rehabber, way back inside Plymouth, had received her first bat, a PREGNANT Brown Bat who had just proudly produced a little plump pup! Then, over the phone, as they were talking to each other, "Oh, No, Help me, Bob, Here comes another!" So reversing his route, Bob went back to Plymouth to rescue the rescuer from her most recent unrest. Home late? ... OK, just another busy, bat-filled day. OBTW, mom and babies were fine, and released, when all flying, in a nearby forest reserve.
Then next came the PROLAPSE. A wintering Big Brown Bat, just giving birth to her twins, gave a third, and bulbous, "birth" of her uterus from within!! Oh, no, our first prolapse! We needed a plan! So while Ann swiftly sheltered the two squealing sucklings, Bob framed his focus on the frantic female's frenzy. Using a Q-Tip, he tried ... and tried ... and tried to shove that shape-shifting, slippery substance into her microscopically tiny slit. Yes, it was like stuffing a raw oyster into an old-fashioned coin slot. In the end, Bob did it!!... by calling the Vet!!! ... who finished that tough task with a tiny feeding tube. Not only did "mom" recover from our radical, red-necked ritual, but reaching for her family with relentless responsibility, she raised her returning wee-ones to a wonderfully rewarding release!
The amazing birth of triplets was our last and final test! With only two nipples, one under each wing, another proud mom popped out her THREE pups! Staring at each other, we whispered, "Will they share?" But, of course there was none of THAT co-operation in there! So while Ann warmed the incubator, Bob went for the third infant. He found two pups tucked under mom's wings, while fastened to her face was the whimpering unwanted one. The mother quickly crawled into Bob's open hand, and pleaded for help as only those Big Brown eyes can. We successfully raised "Junior" to a fully flying adult. Too friendly to free, he now earns his keep as a purring participant in Bob's ongoing Bat Power Points.
As the Going Bats rehab reputation has reached a regional recognition, Bob's presentations have spread to several professional teachers' groups. This growing popularity has also produced an incessant, demanding increase of his in-home bat inspections, causing Bob to reach a record 3800 miles this year in his big, red "Batmobile."
2014 Merry Christmas
Once again from that crazy Walton couple!
Going Bats continues to be Bob's conscientious conservation effort to save these small beneficial critters from cats, cars, concerned people, and the cutting of critical habitat. Even after 12 years, there still seems to be new, unchartered territory for us in the rehabilitation of bats.
During the winter, a rehabber transferred a Big Brown Bat with a terribly swollen back. Assuming that this nearly-bursting bubble was an acute life-threatening abscess, Bob rushed the bloated bat to our anxiously waiting vet. Plunging a syringe into its large, engorged back, we expected an awful explosion of putrid, poisonous pus. Instead, the "life-saving" syringe sucked out a continuous stream of AIR ... .5 ccs of invisible AIR before the bloated body of our bat finally flattened!! Apparently, this poor puffy patient had a punctured lung, causing the loss of air into its adjacent flexible, skin-covered back! Thankfully, the hole had already healed, and, with no more loss of air, our really lucky bat was later and most miraculously released.
This year, our summer baby bat load was considerably lightened since Bob has learned that placing a fallen pup, furred or unfurred, close to its nursery colony, the mother WILL walk from the roost, and wrapping a wing around the happy wee-one, she WILL help her almost orphaned offspring safely back home. But during these warm months, Bob experienced an even more amazing act of motherly love.
One evening Bob received a call from a young couple strolling on the city streets of Ft. Wayne, who found a fallen, furless baby Brown Bat on the sidewalk. The young man promptly picked up the poor puny pup, and while examining this unfortunate infant, a frantically flying female landed on his outreached hand to rescue her recent arrival! Unsuccessful, she flew off. At Bob's suggestion, the young man attached the tiny tot securely to a tree trunk. Then, the delighted duo watched as the worried mother swooped right down and swiftly snatched up her separated suckling!
Our summer was not entirely stress-free, though, by the arrival of an unlucky earthbound Red Bat, overloaded with a "litter" of 3 elfin infants. Her frantic reaction had unfortunately resulted in only one functioning nipple. So Bob spent every few hours for the next four weeks rotating the little Red pups to that one receptive nipple, as well as arduously enticing each individual infant to suck on some supplemental formula and frothy mealworm mash. We lost the littlest sibling, but were successful with his sisters. Relief arrived after 5 weeks, when the developing Reds finally devoured their first fully whole, undiced worm. Growth then grew quickly, and when the two furry fuzzballs were following their mother's aerial flamboyance in our roomy outdoor flight pen, we knew it was time for their release. At dusk, in a near-by forest reserve, we left our little, much-loved family snuggled tightly on a tree with heart-felt feelings for their happy and healthy future.
2015 Merry Christmas
Once again from the Waltons, now a home of greying geriactrics.
The majority of our non-releasable, friendly and habituated bats have been housed with us for over 8 years. Sidney, our eldest bat, came to us almost 12 years ago with a wing sliced by a cat from top to bottom, held barely intact by the unharmed humerus. Sadly, just half of the wing has healed, allowing Sidney to exercise in only straight, short flights in the bat room from cage to curtain. She meets Bob daily at her food dish for her worms, and a pet, purring happily as Bob fondles her still fuzzy, well-groomed fur.
Our only young Walton resident is Junior, the 2 year old Big Brown Bat triplet, who has decided that he does NOT like noise or light. Therefore he no longer accompanies Bob on his Bat Program excursions, but instead enjoys family room purring time in Bobís shirt pocket during the daily morning news, as well as a snuggle under his collar while watching a late night special. Although Junior no longer earns his keep, this friendly little fellow has become a cute, cuddly comfortable companion.
As the weather grew colder, our regular residents were joined this year by a temporary population of 100 rescued, "wintering" bats. Thanks to three newly trained volunteers who happily housed the majority of our male visitors at their own homes, we were left this season with a more manageable, and mostly female, assembly. In early spring, these vibrant, hard-working helpers brought their bats to our flight pen, night after night, for hours of flying practice. When their charges displayed strong, sustained aerial efficiency, we held a freedom festival in our back yard at dusk, where we, the volunteers, and extended families were able to proudly place our bats, one by one, in open hands, allowing those tiny, temporary residents a rejoicing return to the wild. Sweet and sour tears were shed by all, but in the end, wide smiles and soft cheers ensued as the wild bats from the barn joined our wintering releases to form a swirling, somersaulting, black cloud in the darkening sky above us, bursting with buzzing sounds from Bob's bat detector, as the cluster of circling critters at last were able to enjoy an omnivorous ingestion of insects.
Following this remarkable release, the Walton household was left with the few female bats that had already popped pups before the winter weather turned warm. These Moms raised their own infants, a total of 9, in nursery tents, later training their "teens" to fly in our safely sheltered flight pen. Those females, with their families, were finally released in several special bat houses built in our barn.
Again, thanks to our dedicated volunteers, raising the usual series of summer orphans this year was made easier by their assistance. In fact, one of the volunteers offered to raise 4 fragile Red Bat orphans in her home, and now has become our "Red Bat Whisperer," following her successful release of these difficult, more primitive species.
2016 Merry Christmas once again from the Waltons.
This "year of the bats" was much easier, and our bat room much emptier, with the help of our dedicated volunteers. Armed with their pre-disposed Rabies Vaccinations, and practiced training in our strict intake procedure (including sub-cutaneous hydration), our team was able to handle the rescue, examination, and housing of most of the displaced bats in and around Ft. Wayne. Bob then was left with only those critters located in the outlying areas of NE Indiana, some gratefully brought into closer reach by relay teams of out-of-county transporters he had set up during his 15 years of rehab. Even our seasonal summer baby bat population has decreased in number (and effort) with Bob's public instructional outreach, and assistance, in the successful return of many fallen infants to their original roosts. And to ease even more of the work load, our volunteers have taken over many of the ongoing bat programs. So after years of concentrated Bat Rehab, we can finally slow down.
Therefore, with our decreased involvement in this process, we feel that the 2016 Christmas Letter should be our last. Instead of filling the pages with factual, and funny, realities of Bat Rehabilitation, the letters have been increasingly over-weighted with our wanderlusts. This was not our original intent. With our capable partners who rescue and care for all the displaced bats during our trips, with a reliable, hard-working house/bat sitter, with a volunteer who has successfully raised a family of delicately difficult Red Bats, and is now gently caring for a recovering Big Brown Bat that was hit by a 40 mph train, and with our other volunteer creatively caring for a non-releasable partially paralyzed and personable Big Brown with a strong will to live, we end these letters knowing that the future of our bats, in these good hands, is looking great!