My remote, rural Appalachian mountain home hosts a number of wild animals. Last week I stared down a black bear. While this did not leave me fleeing in terror, it did give me a bit of an adrenaline rush.
We do everything we can to live comfortably with our animal neighbors. Sometimes critters get in the house, and then there is a wild chase with a net. We don’t believe any animal deserves the death penalty for being a mere inconvenience. If it’s not dangerous, we capture it and let it go.
Many people fear bats, but our colony in the attic is welcome, as long as it limits itself to the attic. Our bats are fruit and insect eaters and are very important to the ecosystem. They do not bite people or animals.
They live between the window slats and the screen that closes the attic off from the outside. So, we can see the colony and hear them, but they don’t get in the house.
If you look closely, you can see bat babies clinging to their mothers. I’d love to shine a bright light up there and get you some good pics, but I don’t want to disturb the colony unnecessarily. The small light from my camera sent them squealing in protest.
Anyway, they usually stick to their attic colony, but we’ve had problems with them flying down the chimney and getting in the house. Bats are relatively clean creatures, but then, they make poo and carry rabies, and I don’t want to take my chances with poo and rabies.
A couple of months ago, I found something that looked like mouse poo on the top of my 27″ Apple monitor. Sure enough, a bat had been living in the house, flying around always just out of sight, leaving you wondering if you saw something without ever actually seeing it. They are so fast, they flit by in a second and you think you’re going crazy. We’ve had them fly into glass doors and brain themselves, and huddle in the shower only to flee at a vulnerable human moment. I’ve never seen greater fascination on the face of a cat than when it’s spotted a bat in the house. When my cats died and went to heaven, I’m sure they got bats to look at all night long.
In March, shortly before I left for the Gone to Amerikay book signing, I had a vulnerable human moment with a bat. Right after I spotted the bat poo, we called the chimney sweep to come in and repair the system in the fireplace that is supposed to keep bats out. It obviously wasn’t working.
I had to go to the loo as one does when one must, and after I’d made my business, I realized some lazy slob had not put out a fresh roll of paper.
With no Charmin left to perform my ablutions, I reached for the top counter over the toilet towel rack for a box of Kleenex. Kleenex not only does the job Charmin does, but it does it softer, and with more plush.
As I pulled out the tissue, I saw something brown. And it was moving.
I was holding in my hand a live bat.
Now, normally, I am not scared of bats, but if you had a live bat near your vulnerable, nekkid lady bits, you’d be freaked, too.
I dropped the bat to where my trousers were, which is to say, on the floor. And I screamed bloody murder.
Despite the fact that I can stare down a bear without moving or uttering a sound, I wasn’t prepared for a live, flying rodent with teeth near my dainty parts.
I screamed really loud.
Out here in this distant land of ours, when a woman screams, people don’t gather to steal their wallet. The men folk come “A Rescue”.
They come armed.
So, while I am freaking out at the bat, which I have dropped to the ground, and which is stunned into immobility, (perhaps dazzled by the rare sight of my glorious girl parts, or, perhaps, its sensitive little eardrums shattered by my screeching, who knows?) the men folk have come to my loo door.
I am in my toilet, my clothes around my ankles, there is a bat at my feet, and there are armed men at the door.
This might be the most embarrassing moment of my life, but I’m not dead, yet. Anything could happen. But I doubt it could top this.
I finally right myself to preserve my modesty, and there’s my dad with a Glock to greet me when I open the door, certain I’ve been attacked by the Appalachian Cat Burglar.
When I explained the situation to the Brigade, and showed the tiny stunned bat, still immobile on the floor, Oh, the hilarity. Because while these men folk will do what they have to do to protect the women, they will also laugh their asses off when they find out the damsel was distressed by a flying rodent in her trousers.
I closed the door on the batcave, and dad went to get the butterfly net, which gets even more action in the house than it does outside. Butt Bat was immobile. We placed him outside the back door.
Here he is, all furry and cute.
He lay there for at least fifteen minutes, and then began to shiver all over. I felt terrible. I couldn’t tell how long he’d been trapped in the house, but we all noted the dearth of annual household insect infestation: we usually have serious problems with bugs in spring, especially Asian lady bugs and the Marmoreated Stink Bug. And there just weren’t any this year. We figured the bats were eating them.
Anyway, eventually Butt Bat raised his little head and started to look around. The air conditioner kicked on. Startled by the sound, Butt Bat finally flew away.
I figured I’d go ahead and post this ridiculous story here, because my family could not resist telling everyone in sight about it all at the Gone to Amerikay book launch party. There was much hilarity at my expense.
If anyone thinks I get the Special Snowflake Cartoonist treatment around here, you would be wrong.
Anyway, just to show there are no hard feelings against Batkind, I spent most of today nursing a baby bat. We are still puzzling how he got into the kitchen, because he cannot fly.
Our first impulse was to take him back outside, and hope his mother would find him, but he looked pretty miserable. So we decided to call the Wildlife Center and ask advice about how to care for the little bugger.
Here I am feeding him with Pedialyte administered at the tip of a paintbrush. We’ve given him a box with a heating pad and some towels.
So tiny and vulnerable. Love at first sight.
Having trouble getting him back to his cozy box. He did not want to leave my glove.
The Wildlife Center advised us to jury rig a mesh drape to hang out for his mother to find him during the evening.
He clung to it for dear life, but alas, not only did Mama Bat not come, a terrible storm showed up, and poor Bitty Bat was soaked. I was afraid he’d get hypothermia.
He’s back in his warm box, getting hand fed, and tooting around trying to fly.
Tomorrow he goes to a Wildlife Center specialist who cares for orphaned bats.
Please do not be afraid of bats. Do not hurt them if you find them in your home. Do not call a state agency to care for them. Some state agencies routinely euthanize animals they cannot care for. Seek a private wildlife care center which has a no-kill policy. Never take any animals to PETA.
Bats are very important to the ecosystem and are threatened by a fungus which has killed millions of them over the last several years. Please respect and protect our native wildlife.