Tis the season of giving and with it, the coming together of a community and partners to save a colony of 46 big brown bats who found themselves without a winter hibernation home.
Early last week, parishioners at the Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church in Almonte noticed a colony of bats clinging to the outside stone wall of the church. The bats had been humanely evicted in late summer, but they returned too late to find an above 0C, protected place to roost for the winter. The bats were not flying away. They were using up the fat stores and would slowly starve or freeze with the looming colder temperatures.
The parishioners contacted the Mississippi Mills Field Naturalists, who, in turn, contacted RVWS and the bat specialists at the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF).
On December 8, CWF mounted a rescue effort and managed to save 26 bats and brought them to RVWS. Initial care required a health assessment, and oral and subcutaneous fluid therapy for each individual bat. Their weight ranged from a low of 14 g to a healthy 23 g. Over the course of 24-48 hours we continued to hydrate the bats, and gradually introduced and taught them to feed on non-flying insects, such as mealworms and grubs.
While the 26 bats in care at RVWS were making a recovery, another rescue effort was underway to save the remaining bats, who were roosting as high up as 50 feet on the stone wall.
Thanks to CWF and the Mississippi Mills Volunteer Fire Department, the final 20 bats were rescued and brought to RVWS on December 10. At RVWS, it took two of us over four hours just to assess and give fluid injections to the 20 bats.
We are happy to report that every one of The 46 is doing well. Many are now self-feeding, others still require twice-daily hand feeding and fluid therapy. They are being kept in a warm, humid room in cages of 2-5 bats each, based on gender and weight.
We normally receive about 50 bats each year, nevermind all at once. Together with others admitted, we currently have 56 bats in care and continue to receive calls almost daily.
Once the bats reach a healthy weight, they will be rotated back into hibernation in our bat fridges, where we will monitor their weight and bring them back out of hibernation to feed every few weeks. The bats will be returned to Almonte in the spring, giving them plenty of time to find a new roosting spot.
We estimate The 46’s care to cost about $8,000, including about 160,000 mealworms! We also had to purchase additional specialty mesh cages and feeding dishes.
We already have many people to thank in addition to the community of Almonte and the rescuers. Thank you to:
- our staff and volunteers who stepped up to the plate and helped with this unexpected influx of needy patients
- Pet Valu Kemptville for the significant supply discount
- Karin Mahoney, Joyce Ellis and Dino Reptiles for donating the first 30,000 mealworms
- Bunico Communications Inc. who raised $2,730 to help care for the bats at one of their events