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Carl, the Coliseum Bat
By Sarah R. Hendricks; NorthWest News, March 2005

I went to the Josh Groban concert last week. It was fantastic, but I have to admit that I was a little distracted. Just before the concert began, I couldn't help noticing something fluttering wildly over the gathering audience. At first glance, I figured it was a bird, probably a house sparrow or starling. You see them all the time in malls, warehouses, even occasionally in grocery stores. However, this didn't fly like a bird, and certainly wasn't the right shape. With mixed emotions, I realized that this wasn't feathered but furred, a poor little bat awakened from vital sleep.

My first thought was that this was a sign of spring; warm enough for the bats to come out! No, it was snowing earlier that day, far too cold yet. The insects aren't out, so there is nothing for that bat to eat. All of our local bats feed on insects, rather than nectar, fruit, or even fish or blood. If this bat in the Coliseum is fortunate enough to find some cockroaches, maybe it could survive, but this bat will be hunting for flying insects. As far as I know, flying cockroaches, or Palmetto Bugs, are found far south of Indiana. This Coliseum bat, let's call him Carl (or Carla?), wasnít scheduled to fly again for weeks.

Bats spend the winter hibernating, or rather, in torpor. They try to find a reasonably protected space, and lower their heart rate and body temperature. In fact, some species wonít even seek out sheltered spaces (like your attic, front porch, barn, or hollow tree), but instead simply hang from branches, disguised as a cluster of leaves. Others will crawl beneath bark, or may even head south to warmer climates. They will sleep all winter long on the simple reserve of fat in their bodies. If they are disturbed mid-winter, however, they will fly around and spend precious energy. Even if they are able to go back to sleep, they will have used up some of their energy store, and won't have enough to last until spring. If Carl lasted the night, and we get a few days warm enough to bring out insects, he may make it another season. There's added incentive to pray for warmer weather.

What confuses me is why did Carl appear on March 8th? Where has he been hiding that he didn't wake up until the concert? Lots of events have been occurring all winter long in the Coliseum. Surely a Comets game, or another concert would have rousted him from his rest. Did someone open up a storage area that hasn't been used in months? Did this concert require use of a catwalk that other events haven't needed?

Maybe sound woke him up. Sure, the sound was great, and reasonably loud, but I don't think of Josh Groban, a modern classical singer, as a head-banging concert. My ears were not ringing afterwards. Bats, on the other hand, do have sensitive hearing. As you probably know, bats find their food through echolocation, sending out sound waves that bounce off of objects and return to their large ears. These returning sound waves are then processed by the bat to determine the size and shape of the objects in front of them. Though they are not actually blind, they don't need to depend on vision as they fly through the dark. Carl appeared throughout the entire evening, in all sorts of concert lighting, and I didn't see him fly into anything.

I suppose Carl the Coliseum Bat will remain a mystery. It would be nearly impossible to find out where he was, why he emerged, and why he hasn't appeared until March. Perhaps a kind--hearted Coliseum worker will find him, and call Bob Walton, our local bat rehabilitation expert. If anyone could save Carl, Iím sure it's Bob. If you find a bat, especially one on the ground, leave it be and give Bob a call at (260) 637-3018. He's a kind and knowledgeable man who will do his best to help you with many of your batty problems, benefiting both you and the bats. So I'll hope that Coliseum Carl and Bob Walton meet soon, and I will be sure to call Bob right away then next time I find a bat in trouble.

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