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Forums » Smalltalk » AMA - I am a bat carer.

Salve!

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So, I take care of bats. Currently I am on a break, somewhat, but I am still open for bats being referred to me locally if they are in need of care.

In the UK, there is no formal training involved. Most training is done by informal mentorships via bat groups, which are location-based.

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As of the end of this month, I will have been a bat carer for 4 years. How time flies!

I have also been a volunteer for the Bat Helpline. This is run by the Bat Conservation Trust. What we do is link people who find bats with people who are listed on the network, who are usually bat carers but may also be regional bat groups and bat-friendly vets as well.

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When you were starting out, were you nervous of the fragility of their itty bitty bones? it took a min for me to warm up to handling birds and i'd chicken (hah) out and ask my coworker to do the holding instead.
Look at the teeny little feet!

Do they have distinct personalities and tendencies like domesticated pets (dogs, cats, etc.)? What does that look like?
When you next have bats in your care again, will you tell them I love them and what good, precious little buggers they are? ^^;
What's the range of issues that you've tended to while caring for bats? (i.e injury, illness, etc?) Have there been any particularly strange cases?
FadedTapestry Topic Starter

oven wrote:
When you were starting out, were you nervous of the fragility of their itty bitty bones? it took a min for me to warm up to handling birds and i'd chicken (hah) out and ask my coworker to do the holding instead.

Quite a bit! Handling them does take a bit of knack. But I was lucky in that a lot of my earlier cases weren't massively complicated, so they were easy to learn on.
FadedTapestry Topic Starter

silentruth wrote:
Look at the teeny little feet!

Do they have distinct personalities and tendencies like domesticated pets (dogs, cats, etc.)? What does that look like?

I have definitely observed distinct differences in how they act, between the same species and individuals. But they are also very obviously wild animals so I'm hesitant to extrapolate between something that has been without human intervention and something with.
FadedTapestry Topic Starter

Zelphyr wrote:
When you next have bats in your care again, will you tell them I love them and what good, precious little buggers they are? ^^;

I can definitely do that!
FadedTapestry Topic Starter

cloverfairy wrote:
What's the range of issues that you've tended to while caring for bats? (i.e injury, illness, etc?) Have there been any particularly strange cases?

So the most common injuries we get in are wing tears and punctures (healable, some in a week, some months, also depending on the time of year that we get them in) and broken wing fingers. Wing finger bones can heal depending on the wing finger and whether or not it has broken the skin.

In terms of strange or unique cases, I've had a bat in with half of a broken jaw bone and another with flystrike. Unpleasant to deal with and requiring them being humanely euthanised in both cases but also learning opportunities that will help me treat future bats going forward.
fig

can you tell me a story about a particular bat that has stuck with you? or maybe a funny story? 8)
FadedTapestry Topic Starter

fig wrote:
can you tell me a story about a particular bat that has stuck with you? or maybe a funny story? 8)

Ooh, tough one as there are quite a few that stand out for their own reasons.

- Pat the Common pipistrelle. We used to get her out for exercise while she was putting on weight. She'd fly around before flying back to the flexarium once she was done, with no training to get her to do that whatsoever.

- Hart the Common pipistrelle, who was with us for nearly a year due to the severity of her injury. She started self-feeding on day 1 and seemed to know what mealworms were. I strongly suspect she may have been in care previously, even if not me then with another local carer.

- Doublet the Daubenton's bat, who learnt to tap on his food dish when it was empty to get us to fill it up.

- Harry the Whiskered Bat, who we put on a diet as he was getting a bit too much tennis ball and a little less bat. He escaped, was absent for 3 days, then flew in on the third day none the worse for wear. We suspect he'd been eating insects, spiders etc.
what is the funniest experience you've had with the bats?
FadedTapestry Topic Starter

XenoverseSurvivor wrote:
what is the funniest experience you've had with the bats?

So many to choose from. Probably Caileph deciding to launch himself off of the curtain before we picked him up again, only to not quite get the necessary leverage and faceplant on my (mask-wearing) spouse before flying off.
Kim Site Admin

How does one get into this career? Is there a lot of competition for those mentorship positions? Is there something a person could learn in school or volunteer to do that would give them an edge prior to applying?
FadedTapestry Topic Starter

Kim wrote:
How does one get into this career? Is there a lot of competition for those mentorship positions? Is there something a person could learn in school or volunteer to do that would give them an edge prior to applying?

So, in the UK at least, it isn't a career - it is completely voluntary. I have heard of people who are both in veterinary positions and do bat care as well but that's as close as it gets. Generally an interest in ecology and conservation helps, but having an edge isn't really necessary so long as you are serious about wanting to provide care, have the ability to dedicate time to caring for a bat should you get one in, and are willing to learn. Parallel occupations that you can get paid for include bat surveying as an ecologist.

Regarding the mentorship positions, no. A fair few people express interest but bat care isn't all sunshine and rainbows, and that tends to be made apparent quite quickly. In the bat group I am in in particular, there are quite a few carers so if one person is busy, they can ask someone else. To a degree, mentorship is also location based as it is a lot easier to show someone how to care for a bat face-to-face than it is remotely, although I respect that some carers are still not taking on mentees due to Covid still being a serious problem - myself among them.

I'd say that anything animal related is an advantage, although bats aren't really focused on when it comes to veterinary education and it takes intentionally expressing an interest in that for it to even come up. To add further context: the amount of vets with no bat experience versus vets who can confidently able to or willing to handle a bat is unfortunately unbalanced towards the former, which means that for some carers, there are no vets local to them which may require 'tag teaming' a bat to a vet. I've heard of carers travelling at least a couple of hours and then passing a bat onto another carer to get them seen to, and then returning them to release them where they were found. Paying taxi and Uber drivers for the cost of transporting the bat has also come up.

Subjects that tie in well include conversation and biology, with an animal focus.
Gokugull (played anonymously)

Those are so cute :o :o :o Is there any stigma around bats in the UK, like with rabies and stuff?
FadedTapestry Topic Starter

Gokugull wrote:
Those are so cute :o :o :o Is there any stigma around bats in the UK, like with rabies and stuff?

Mm, I have definitely encountered people who are nervous around them or afraid but not to the point of 'I will kill them if I can'. Don't get me wrong, I've heard horror stories, but generally even the members of the public who are nervous, if they do find a bat, want it to get the best help that it can. So I would say there is some fear of them but it generally just comes from not knowing much about them, which is where outreach as a bat carer comes in!

In the UK, there is a passive monitoring scheme. Essentially any dead bats, be they found or that have died in care, can be sent for testing. This helps us to build up an awareness of how prevalent it is, where the risk is higher in what locations, etc. While European Bat Lyssavirus is present in UK bats, it is at a low rate. But we do take the same precautions regardless.

One of the instructions repeatedly given while talking to bat finders and when asking them to contain the bat is gloves, gloves, gloves. Or if no gloves, then a barrier like a tea-towel or a bit of cloth. Heck, even a sock works. No bites/scratches etc? No risk.

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