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Caring For Bats
Claire Storey, Wildlife Correspondent
In an earlier article I discussed how a bat comes into care and how you can help our bats.

This instalment describes the actual role of the bat carer.

Triage

The first thing that a bat carer does is check for wounds and or broken limbs.

This first triage is very important as it will often steer the carer towards the type of intervention required.

Sadly, there are occasions where bats need to be euthanised because their injuries are too great and hence cannot be released back into the wild, which is the priority goal in bat care.

A visit to a vet on some occasions is necessary to obtain treatment for an injured bat (i.e. pain killers, antibiotics or euthanasia).

Types of Injuries

The Wings

The injuries that we often see are bats which have been caught by cats.

These injuries can comprise broken bones, puncture wounds, tears in the tail and wing membranes.

Quite often a broken bone would lead to the bat being euthanised especially where the bone has broken the skin (compound break).

Fractures of the bones can mend with rest and keeping the bat warm and contained as possible to prevent the bat from causing more injury to itself.

Below is a picture of what a bat skeleton looks like.

Their wings are very much like our hands, just with elongated digits and a membrane between.

Breaks to joints, such as the shoulder and elbow are often unrepairable.

Tears in the membranes are quite often repairable as this is a living tissue.

Some holes are very small and others can be completely severed from the body.

Small tears can take a couple of weeks to grow back, yet the more substantial ones can take months.

The images below show the extremes of wing membrane injuries. Some readers may some photos distressing.

The images below are broken bones that are unlikely to repair.


Mites, tick, and other parasite infestation

Some bats come into carers with severe mite/ parasite infestation.

Most of the time the bats would be released as removal of these can be undertaken, although it can take quite a long time.

A rest between bouts of mite clearance is often necessary so the bat does not get too stressed.

A damp cotton wool bud is often the tool of choice for getting these miniscule insects off the bats.

Sticky substances

Unfortunately, and by far the most distressing job, is when bats get stuck to flypaper.

The more they struggle the more stuck they become.

It can take a very long time to get a bat released from flypaper so it needs to be done in stages to reduce the stress - (A plea from the bats - Please try not to use these in areas where bats may be roosting and or flying).

Margarine, fullers earth, mild detergent is all used to help unstick them.

These bats need to be kept warm as they are not that keen on being wet!

The following photographs show how a bat looks when it arrives with a carer.

To get this bat looking like a bat it took (by Gail Armstrong - fellow bat carer) 6 days.


Feeding and Re-hydration

The most important thing a carer would do is provide re-hydration fluid to the bat, over providing food in the first instance.

We often do not know how long a bat has been grounded/ stranded, so it is important to ensure that their fluids are built up.

Also by Claire Storey...
Bat Carers - An Introduction
The next things we do is encourage them to eat.

This can be very difficult as the food we provide them is not what they can get in the wild but the next best thing.

For the most part bats are fed on live mealworms, waxworms, and crickets.

It can sometimes take a while for the bat to realize that it is food and the carer is not trying to poison it!!

If a pup comes into care and it has not been possible to re-unite the bat with its mum, feeding and re-hydration is a different kettle of fish!

The pups need to be re-hydrated and then fed on puppy milk (this is the closest food to that of its mum).

Carers feed the pups regularly (how often depends on how young they are) with small amounts of the milk.

This can go on for several weeks, before it is introduced to soft food.

The pup is then weaned gradually until it takes the food by itself and is eating the same as the adults and juveniles would.

Flight Assessment

For some grounded bats, once they are re-hydrated, they can recover quite quickly and then when introduced to a flight area show that they are ready for release.

Prolonged flight for an hour is used as a guide to how well they can fly.

These bats are released as soon as possible.

With pups/juveniles it is a different matter!

The carers become their surrogate mums and have to teach them to fly.

They are encouraged to fly by dropping the hand with the bat very quickly to encourage the wings to open (this is carried out with a soft landing so the bat does not hurt itself when falling to the ground).


This is done repeatedly over several days (and weeks) until the bat takes flight.

As with the adults, when they can sustain their flight for 1 hour or more, they are ready to be released back into the wild.

Release

This is by far the most rewarding part of a carers role.

Seeing the bats being released into the wild to continue their amazing lives is so rewarding and makes up for the hard work and times spent with them recovering.

If the location of the bat is known, they are released at dusk to their familiar environment.

If it is not known where they were grounded, they are released into woodlands where the species of bat is known to be present.

Caring For Bats, 28th March 2019, 16:40 PM