It’s time to look back on 2019! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2019 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
Throughout my time as a wildlife rehabilitator, I’ve gained a variety of skills – some standard skills like diet prep and cage cleaning, and some rather unique skills, like how to accurately estimate the weight of a mouse just by looking at it. Another thing I consider myself skilled at is caring for and raising the many species of orphaned wildlife that we admit here at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. However, sometimes I’m thrown for a loop and we admit a baby that I have never cared for before. That happened this summer with neonate Big Brown Bat #19-1459. I’ve cared for plenty of adult Big Brown bats, but I’ve never needed to care for an eyes-closed, hairless, four-gram baby about half the size of my thumb!
The cuteness of this critter was almost unbearable, but the task of caring for something so small was a bit daunting! I immediately enlisted the help and advice of our local bat guru, Leslie Sturges. We are truly fortunate at the Wildlife Center to work with Leslie. She is a fountain of knowledge about bats and truly skilled at their care. Armed with my arsenal of tips and knowledge from Leslie and her words of encouragement, I quickly set off caring for BBB #19-1459. Bats that tiny require constant feedings and warmth, so time was of the essence. Luckily, the little one was a champ at figuring out syringe-feeding, and it turned out that caring for a bat that small wasn’t as scary as I thought! Their skin is virtually transparent, so it is easy to tell when their little bellies are full. After a couple of feedings, my fear abated and I quickly fell in love with the bat. Being so small, he required overnight feedings every two hours and Leslie Sturges came to our rescue, meeting one of my rehabilitation externs at 9:00 pm to take this little one for further care.
It was a quick brush with baby bat care on my end, but it taught me so much and eased my fear about caring for an incredibly small individual. As always, the hope is that we never admit orphans – it’s always better for them to be raised with their own mothers – but I now know that if we are to admit another neonate bat that I can take care of it without worry. I feel very lucky to have been able to provide for the little bat, even if only for one day. Thank you to Leslie, as always, for the plethora of knowledge and for instilling faith in me for caring for a creature so small!
-- Kelsey, Wildlife Rehabilitator