Bat Cuddles!

Bat cuddles! I feel like I know them, now that I’ve been caring for them every week for the last month or two, after getting my rabies vaccination. I work with other species, too, and don’t want to get pigeonholed (LOL). Today I boxed a large coyote for his room to be cleaned, cleaned and fed three of the turtle patients, and weighed and released the fox back into its newly clean room. And of course, fed and cleaned bats. I do love little bats and am happy to feed and clean them each week.

The very last bat enclosure I worked on – a large double size mesh enclosure – was a treat. It houses Zenelophon and Yorick.

They are newer patients and have been there only a few weeks. Last week they were in separate enclosures, today they were together. Very together! I thought I was bringing out one bat to weigh, but when I opened the tea towel there were two bats in my glove!

Zenelophon, a girl, and the larger of the two, and Yorick, the boy, were cuddled up together.

I felt so bad when I had to separate them to weight them and harass their little bodies a bit more than usual to be able to see their belly side to identify who is the boy and who is the girl. Sexing a bat is a lot like a squirrel – they look pretty much the same, but boys are clearly more obvious on bats. “If there’s a gap, it’s a chap” is a helpful phrase – the female organs are closer to the bum and tail, and the male are a little higher up on their body.

So they were separated and each one was weighed and placed back in their enclosure, with two little dishes of fresh calcium water and two dishes full of mealworms, phoenix worms, and wax worms for them.

The last task of the day was to hand-feed Queen Gertrude. Assist-feed, actually. Hand feeding is where you hold the bat wrapped up in the towel and feed it, and assist feeding is where you feed the bat as it is hanging upside down in its enclosure and free to move around if it wants to. Queen Gertrude has not been eating for the last few days.

She was super slow and sleepy when I weighed her, cleaned her enclosure, and returned her into it. Staff person L suggested that I move her out of the very cold room where these bat patients are kept at outside temperature, and into another location to let her warm up a bit. Try assist or hand feeding her once she is warmer and therefore a little more awake. See if I can get her to eat her untouched food from last night.

So I placed Queen G’s enclosure on a countertop outside of the cold room, in a heated central area of the building, and continued cleaning and feeding the rest of the bats in ISO. There are about 11 in there in total right now. And the room is really cold! The window is left open to let in the cold air, so that all of the animals in the rooms of that area – chipmunks, a snowy owl, a coyote, and the bats, all get temperatures close to outside.

By the time I was done cleaning and feeding all of the bats, my fingers were numb. I couldn’t feel my fingertips, despite wearing latex gloves and thicker protective gloves. Queen Gertrude was a little warmer – she had probably been on the counter for an hour – and I needed to warm up a bit before I could use the larger tweezers well enough to feed her.

I ran warm water over my hands, and it just happened that volunteer D asked for help to weigh a fox and return it to its enclosure. I was more than happy to help her with that. So we weighed the fox (in a kennel kab, then weigh the kennel without the fox to get the fox’s weight), and moved the fox back into its clean room, where I released it. Then back to Queen Gertrude.

I had tried to feed her in the cold room before moving her to the counter to warm up. No luck. She would open her mouth a little, but not bite down. She would not take any of the food.

Then I tried hand feeding her in the warmer area near the counter. But she just clamped her mouth shut and would move her head away. No. No. No. I don’t want that! She seemed to be showing me.

But when she was ready – Rawr! Lol.

I had placed her back into her enclosure, taken her back into the cold room, and placed the enclosure on the table there. Queen Gertrude was hanging on the back wall of the mesh enclosure.

Now she was interested! She almost jumped at the food. She would lean way out to get it was I was bringing it to her, grab it with her tiny little mouth, and happily munch away. She also tried to take the next mealworm before she was even finished the one in her mouth. Chomp! Crunch crunch. Another one! Another one! Another one! She quickly ate 15 in total – with gusto!

She was my last patient of the day, and when I left at 6pm we were both happy and satisfied.