How to Catch a Bat

“Treat bats as you would unvaccinated children,” says Winifred Frick, chief scientist at Bat Conservation International. Before Covid, biologists used to blow on bats’ faces to stop biting and on their bellies to confirm their reproductive status. Do not do this; you can unintentionally give a bat coronavirus. New bat handling protocols suggest using an air inflator, such as one of these baby snot nasal aspirators, to blow air into a bat instead. Also, wear a mask, get vaccinated and test negative for coronavirus before going out on the field.

Bats are usually most active between sunset and midnight. To catch one, set up a mist net over a creek or along a trail that they use as a flight path. Check your networks every 10 to 15 minutes with a flashlight. When you catch one, dissolve it slowly. Hold it in your non-dominant hand, wearing a leather glove thick enough to withstand sharp teeth and another nitrile or latex glove over it. Gently press your thumb under his chin to avoid biting. “Don’t squeeze the stick,” Frick says. Try not to keep a bat captive for more than an hour. Let those who are pregnant or breastfeeding go sooner. “You don’t want to stress them out,” says Frick, who just finished a task leading a team of researchers that caught small brown bats in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Completely avoid handling bats unless they are vaccinated against rabies and have received appropriate training.

If a bat flies inside a building you are in, open doors and windows and turn off the lights. “It will find its way out,” Frick says. If the bat is injured or not pretending to be a bat, put on gloves and gently wrap it in a towel and place it in a closed box with breathing holes. Then call an animal rescue organization.

Some bats are easier to catch than others. Fighting a golden-crowned flying fox with a wingspan of about six meters is distinctly different from holding a small two-gram bumblebee bat. Attitudes are also different. “Some species are really grumpy,” says Frick. Remember, bats are not responsible for this epidemic. “In some places, people went out and killed the bats,” Frick says. “There’s no reason for that.”

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