Learning how to handle bats!

When my supervisor asked me if I would be comfortable handling bats I very quickly and excitedly answered “YES!”

I have always enjoyed seeing these mysterious creatures flying around my campsites at dusk. As a birder, I would rush to grab my binoculars hoping to make out their features against the night sky. I would think, “If I could just see them for one second I’m sure I can ID them!” Of course in the lowlight this never worked… In the last few weeks, however, I have learned the necessary skills to capture bats, identify them, and take data on their sex, size, and weight. Being able to closely examine bats has allowed me to see and admire the unique morphology of each species, no binoculars necessary!

So how does it work? Well, we use mist nets. These nets are used by both ornithologists and bat biologists to capture individuals. They are very thin, lightweight and difficult to see in the dark. We attach them to two different poles and extend them out in an area where we predict bats will fly over then we patiently wait for one to get caught. Getting them out of the net can be tricky. You have to wear latex gloves to prevent the possible spread of pd (the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome) and in one hand you have to wear a leather glove to protect you from possible bites. Of course, the bats don’t come out without a fight and if you’re not careful they can fly out of your hand if you aren’t holding them correctly (it has happened to me twice!)

Once they are out of the net we measure the length of their forearm and ear, we determine the species and sex, we weight them, and we let them go! I always compare them to kittens (if you have held kittens you will understand) their small nails are like velcro, they are squirmy trying to get out of your hand, and they very loudly let you know they don’t want to be held. I have to say this is my favorite part of the internship!

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