Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bat murderer

I love bats. I love their stealthy flight at dusk, their wings that look like thin wet silk,their little sonar noises.

Many times I have been amazed at them, flying overhead like magic, in the golden hours. My first encounter with them was in Waukesha, some 20 years ago; I marvelled as they flew back and forth above me. Again, up north, on a wooded ithsmus between two lakes in the woods, they were thick in the trees as the stars came out; and again, one memorable time coming home late in my kayak as bats accompanied me, a thick low cloud. Last week, walking the dog through Glen Oaks Cemetary, we ducked, unnerved, as bats were low, flying, seemingly almost in our hair.

Once, someone who had two little brown bats hanging from the curtain on his back door called me, and I went; an expectant crowd gathered outside with the door open, and suddenly they both headed toward the sunset as we marvelled.

I have never once been afraid. The hair stood up on my arms, but I was not afraid.

Then last week Brain and I came home to find a bat inside a window, trapped by the braver of my two cats. I opened the screen. The bat flew outside into the night, unharmed. When I realized that the cat was overdue on her rabies shot, I made a vet appointment that turned into a report to the State Veterinarian, a lecture about why I should have killed the bat, and somehow involves a lot of hassle, including several home visits, the first of which is scheduled for tomorrow. That's fine, except that this morning there was another (different, larger) bat in the house.

It was flying in my bedroom when I was trying to get ready, and I shreiked a couple times (it really startled me!) and then closed the doors to the bedroom; I do have to say, it was very convenient that I found it in the only room in the house that I could close off. Sure that I was doing the right thing, I got the tennis racket, waited until it hung quietly on the wall above the door, and had Brain do the deed; I was saddened that I had to facilitate bat murder, but adrenaline and instruction-following won. It died quickly. I had been told that I was supposed to kill a bat in the house. So I did, again, what I thought was the right thing to do.

I called the DNR, certain that they would want me to deliver it anon for necropsy, and instead got a lecture about why bats are beneficial and that I should seal the hole through which they were entering. Duh. I do not need the DNR to tell me that. I do not need the DNR to tell me that I killed a bat for nothing. (Brain was just the hit man, having superior hand-eye coordination and strength; also, he is taller. I masterminded it, which is worse.) I do not need the DNR, either, to tell me that the State Vet was wrong, and that the DNR is superior; both are government entities that deal with such things.


Anonymous said...

It's funny you should post something about bats...because we (me and my daughter) had a close encounter with bats the other night. They were flying soooo low and squeaking...first time I ever heard them make noises. I don't's unnerving to have bats flying so close to your head. I was the first to run inside...and my daughter wasn't too far behind. They are interesting creatures...but why do they fly so close to people's heads??

To find one in the house would send me over the edge. I'm sorry you were told to kill it. I suppose you really have to be careful with bats and rabies though. The girl in WI who got rabies was "saving" a bat...and it scratched her on her hand (I think) and gave her rabies. I guess no one around her thought a little scratch was anything to worry about.

The River Otter said...

About the girl in Fond du Lac that found the bat in church- that was a limp bat on the floor, that is the key thing- other rabid bats that I have heard of were "lying on the ground during the day" and similar- not healthy bat behavior. That is too bad that that happened to her (and also amazing at the same time, considering). It's like the West Nile Virus- neuro/behavior changes.
I don't know why they like to fly so close overhead. Curiosity? Or because they know that the mosquitos love us too? Or trying to chase people away from their territory?

The River Otter said...

Also, this is their "active time of year" per the state vet. :)