Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Naomi wrote this fantastic little blog post to share with you her experience as a bat carer to be posted on Christmas Day! We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did, and we wish you all a very merry and very batty Christmas!
This summer I volunteered as a surrogate bat mum - something I was so excited to take part in! This involves caring for baby bats that for various reasons become separated from their Mum and cannot be reunited with her or are too weak and need to be cared for by us to survive. They are often found near maternity roosts by members of the public.
As a freelance Artist I had the time and flexibility to care for little ones around the clock and have support at home to help me through, so at the bat rescue we decided it would be a good plan for me to take on most babies as last year’s carers had a human baby of their own!
I was trained up in how to care for baby bats and already had undergone a fair amount of bat rescue, rehabilitation and release training by this point, with quite a lot of experience of adults bats as part of Bristol Bat Rescue team. I prepared some equipment and got ready for arrivals any day.
When the first baby bat call came in that season I was so excited and nervous. I went to pick the little one up and it was smaller than I even imagined! From charts we have I could tell it was very young and underweight, covered in dust it must have been away from Mum for a little while, I named him Boo. He was rushed home and given some vital fluids on the way and some warmth from me and a hot water bottle. Unfortunately Boo died a few hours later as he had just not been rescued in time.
However, the same roost had an issue that babies seemed to be falling from the loft of the house into the family’s kitchen. So very quickly more babies were turning up. Some didn’t make it long and we weren’t called in, but soon a more healthy looking baby was found. I picked him up and gave him the support he needed and called him Gemini.
A few days later the same roost had another lost baby, she was named Ara.
They were both so, so tiny. Not more than the end of my thumb. They had to have milk every few hours, including throughout the night, but just the right temperature, just the right amount and some cleaning too. I often wore them in a pouch around my neck so they were close to me and warm like being with their Mum. They seemed to like that a lot. When they couldn’t be with me they had a cosy box filled with mini blankets to snuggle down in.
Through the season I had other babies come in, be cared for, tried to reunite with mum, passed on to others or on to the flight cage. So many passed through my hands in a short space of time. There was joy, sadness, tiredness and exhaustion all mixed together for many weeks. I was very relieved to have Sophie on our team too who started to take on more and more babies as we became over run! Kiri and Stew also took on bat pups to help me and Sophie out and other bat carers stepped in, so it was a team effort.
However, Gemini and Ara were with me for the longest at 23 days and they accompanied me almost everywhere including to work, to Newbury, to Basingstoke, to Cambridge, to two weddings - one in a hotel and one motor home, to a farm near Salisbury, they went on buses, trains and were fed in the car. I did not have a full night's sleep the entire time and worked their feeding around what I needed to do. So many phone alarms and detailed planning of feeds!
I finally grew ill with bronchitis as I was starting to become over tired and my immune system broke down. But just as I was developing pneumonia I popped down to see Gemini and Ara in Devon at the flight cage (North Devon Bat Care) which is where they go once on solid foods to learn how to fly and eat on the wing. I saw about 7 of my babies flying round me and it was wonderful and I knew they would soon be off back to the wild. I like to think Gemini and Ara recognised me as they often landed near me and seemed to be checking me out.
It was a big challenge being a baby bat Mum but honestly I loved all of it. It was so rewarding to know so many vulnerable babies made it back into the wild. Bats make up around one third of our endangered species in the UK so I feel like the work we do at the bat rescue it vital to keeping their numbers as high as possible. I’m enjoying the quieter winter but I’m already feeling a little excited to have little babies back again!