What do Wildlife Rehabilitators do with Bats?
Broadly speaking, wildlife rehabilitators do whatever is necessary to restore the animals’ health and return them to the wild. That includes assessing their state of health, examining them for injuries, establishing feeding programs that are age/development-appropriate, and when possible providing opportunities for exercise to help them regain their strength. If rehabilitation is deemed impossible, they euthanize the bats humanely to prevent further suffering.
If a bat is found on the ground, it is safe to assume that it is sick or injured. Frightened bats, like many other animals, tend to bite, so rehabbers must observe two key precautions: always wear gloves when handling the animals and maintain a current rabies vaccination schedule examining the creature for signs of the illness or for injury, since frightened animals tend to bite.
Rehabilitators usually must be licensed, and thus are usually able to make the preliminary diagnosis and administer first aid. Working with a veterinarian, they can determine if there are broken bones, open wounds or other injuries and establish a recovery program that covers their requirements for food, rest, medication and exercise. They should be kept in a small escape-proof cage, weighed regularly and regularly monitored for hydration. When able to fly, they should be released to rejoin their colony.
Not surprisingly, baby bats require a higher level of care than adults, particularly as it relates to nutrition. For infants, an initial diet of diluted puppy formula or goats’ milk is recommended, with the concentration increased over the next few feedings.
The babies must be fed every two-to-three hours, including overnight, until they are about three weeks old. At that point, they can be weaned off the formula and switched to a diet of mealworms over a period of two weeks. At about six weeks, the babies will have almost reached full growth and should be evaluated for their ability to fly, and thus to rejoin the colony.
Different species of bats differ in their behavior in the wild and thus, rehabilitators need to consider these differences, particularly in releasing them to flight cages prior to full freedom. Juveniles should be started out in cages of about 3’ x 4’ x 4’, with an ideal cage size for adults measuring about 20’ x 8’ x 8’. Openings in cage walls should be no more than a one-eighth to one-quarter inch to prevent bats’ wings from getting stuck in the mesh.
As soon as the bats demonstrate that they can gain altitude, land well, and are capable of sustained fight, they should be released back into the wild.
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