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What's New in Bat Rehab

Caring For Ohio Bats During Rehabilitation

Ann Wookey

on 4 November 2018

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Transcript of What's New in Bat Rehab

Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
The most common Ohio bat in urban areas.
One of the last bats to hibernate in the fall and first to emerge in the spring.
Start to hibernate in November and are forming maternity colonies in mid-March.
Hibernate at warmer temps, ~ 49 degrees.
Strong homing instinct and attachment to the maternity roost where they were born.
Most will return if released within 250 miles of their maternity colony.
Will abandon a summer roost if temperature goes above ~93 degrees.
Their summer and winter roosts are usually less then 50 miles apart.
Beetles make up a majority of their wild diet.
Emit a musky odor under extreme stress.
Pups are born in May and June. They nurse for 3-4 weeks and can fly when about 4 weeks old.
Emerge ~ 30 min. after sunset to feed.
Formerly knows as Eastern Pipistrelle bat.
The smallest bat in Ohio.
Winter and Summer roosts less then 50 mi. apart.
Maternity roosts are often in hollow trees.
Calm, but they do not like being restrained.
Some similarities to tree bats.
This species roosts in foliage sometimes and is relatively solitary.
Born hairless with eyes closed.
Pups are flying around 3 weeks old and are independent at 4-5 weeks old.
Some never take to mealworms and must be handfed the soft food diet.
They can eat a lot for their small size.
In Ohio, it is often the first species to hibernate in fall (Sept- early Oct.) and last to emerge in spring (late April - May)
Tri-Colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus)
The Crevice Bats
The Tree Bats
Silver Haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
Found in Ohio only during spring (April - May) and fall (Sept. - Oct.) migration.
May struggle violently and act fierce when restrained initially.
Behaviors may include: snapping, chewing with unfocused eyes, biting at mealworms but not swallowing, spitting out or not swallowing fluids, and twitching of head or extremities.
These behaviors can look like symptoms of rabies.
Summer roosts are under bark or in tree cavities.
May travel up to 30 miles a night to reach preferred foraging area.
Readily roost with Big Brown Bats.
Males not prone to aggression if housed together.
Migrate southern US in the winter.
When migrating they can fly over 50 mph.
Evening Bat (Nycticeius humeralis)
Found mostly in Southern Ohio and only during summer months (May - Aug).
Much smaller than big brown bats (6-10 g).
May emit a musky odor when stressed.
Prone to stop self-feeding on occasion so they may require extended periods of hand-feeding.
They are often confused with Myotis bats.
Evening bats have one upper incisor on each side of their jaw, Myotis and big browns have two on each side.
Newborn pups are hairless, and pink except for dark feet, ears, and lips.
About 24 hrs after birth eyes open and skin starts to darken.
Reach adult size and are flying at 3- 4 weeks old but not fully weaned until they are 6-9 weeks old .
Migrate south for winter.
Rafinesque's Big-Eared Bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii)
Do not confuse with the long-eared bat. They are different species.
Big-Eared bats have longer ears than long-eared bats.
Ears over 1 inch long.
Southern Ohio is the northern most part of their range.
They are found year round in Kentucky.
Only two known bats found in Ohio.
In 1953 and 1960
Both in Adams County
Bones from this bat have been found in Miami County
Feed almost entirely on moths.
One of the least know bats in NA and almost nothing is known about this bat in Ohio.
By Ann Wookey, Ohio Wildlife Center

The Myotis Species of Ohio:
Little Brown, Northern long-eared, Indiana and Small-footed Bats.
All these bats in the genus Myotis.
The Latin genus Myotis means "mouse ear".
They are the most difficult of the Ohio bat species to tell apart.
Highly intelligent and curious.
They dislike change in their environment.
They can learn to trust their caretakers if it is the same person using the same routine.
Major changes like switching caretakers should be done gradually over a period of several days.
Stress from change is often exhibited by panic and refusing to self-feed.
They will roost with other species in captivity.
Males are calmer and more manageable than females.
Very vocal and extremely fast.
Will take flight even in tight quarters.
Like to roost under tree bark.
Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus)
Nervous, can be squirmy when held.
Larger than the other myotis species but has a smaller jaw and eats smaller prey.
More diverse diet than other myotis species.
Eat flies, moths, caddis flies, beetles, midges and other aquatic insects.
Will take aquatic insects off the surface of the water.
Most commonly found near water.
Roosts in groups numbering in the 1000's.
Pups born with fine silky fur, eyes open by day 2. Around 3 weeks old pups are weaned and begin to fly.
Less likely then other species to use bat houses.
Are being hit real hard by WNS.
Northern Long-eared Bat (Myotis septentrionais)
Has longer ears than other Myotis bat species in Ohio. When laid forward, ears extend about 4mm. beyond tip of the nose.
Diet is 94% moths. Will also eat beetles, flies and spiders.
Can eat its prey off the surface of foliage and other objects.
Often roost with other bat species during hibernation but are often more solitary than other Myotis species.
One of the smaller myotis bats. Adults average 5-10 grams.
Frequently hang out in the open.
Pups start to fly around 21 days old.
More common in woodland areas in Ohio.
Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis)
Looks similar to Little Brown Bat.
Indiana bat has shorter fur that is less shiny and hair color is often more grey then brown.
Only 2 places in Ohio where the Indiana bat is known to hibernate:
Mines in Lawrence and Preble Counties.
While classified as a crevice bat, they form nursery colonies in the bark of dead or dying trees, often using several trees in the same area.
Feces analysis showed the diet of pregnant females is 90% soft bodied insects like flies and moths. After lactation majority of diet their was hard-bodied insects like beetles.
Small-footed Bat (Myotis leibii)
Extremely rare in Ohio.
Only one bat found in Ohio.
It was found in Erie County, Ohio in 1842.
1842 was 39 years after Ohio became a state.
The person who found the bat lived in Erie Township Michigan.
Researchers labeled the bat from Erie Co. Ohio.
Maps not accurate in 1800's.
Can not be certain bat was really from Ohio.
This species has been found in every state bordering Ohio except Michigan.
Not found in Indiana until 2009.
It has a black face mask that is the result of sparsely haired black skin.
One of the smallest bats in North America.
How to ID the 4 species of myotis bats found in Ohio
Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus)
Long toe hairs, hairs longer than toes
Lack of keeled calcar
Northern long-eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis)
Long cone shaped pointed tragus (9-11 mm)
Long ears (14 - 18 mm)
Small bat, 5 - 10 grams
Small-footed Bat (Myotis leibii)
Smallest: 4 - 6 grams
Short forearm (30-34 mm)
Strongly keeled calcar
Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis)
Moderately keeled calcar
Blunt, short tragus
Eastern Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis)
One of the most common bats in Ohio.
Most common May - August
In summer they roost in trees and shrubs.
In winter they migrate though some may stick around and hibernate in leaf litter.
Adapted to tolerate very low temps.
Thick fur, short ears covered in fur, fur on tail membrane that they wrap around them.
It is believed these bats migrate hundreds of miles in groups to their winter roosts.
Many overwinter in southern US.
Go into torpor around 68 degrees F.
Pups weaned and learn to fly at 4-6 weeks old.
Often hang from only one foot.
These bats use their teeth to hold on like they use their thumbs and feet. Often bite and hold onto towels / gloves when they feel insecure or to reposition themselves.
Ohio Tree Bats in General
Roost in trees, camouflaged by leaves.
Are solitary.
Most leave Ohio in October or November and return in March or April. Migration patterns not well documented for these bats.
These are very cold tolerant bats and some may overwinter in Ohio.
When stressed they may flip on their back, wings out wide, make a clicking or hissing sound, strike out with wings and jump forward.
Often hang by one foot.
Can give birth to up to 5 pups but litters of 2-3 are more common. Often in a litter of 5 one pup won't survive.
They have 4 teats, most other bats have 2.
Pups hang with their mother in trees during the day. At night mothers leave their pups in a tree and go forage.
Their behavior is very different then the crevice bat's behavior.
The Four Myotis Bats:
Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus)
Largest bat in Ohio.
The most widespread US bat.
Found throughout the US but they are rarely encountered by people.
Juveniles more pale in color than adults.
Most migrate south in Aug. / Sept. and north in May / June though some may overwinter in Ohio.
Very cold hardy an have been seen flying at temps. as low as 32 degrees F.
Come out to feed well after dark, later at night than most other bats.
Passive, calm and tolerant once they get over initial shock of captivity.
Exhibit emotion through ear position, posture and facial expression.
Pups born with fine silvery grey hair. Eyes open by day 12. They can fly by day 33.
Note the hunchback posture
Little Brown Bat on the left and Indiana Bat on the right.
A female Eastern red bat.
Males are more reddish in color.
Ohio Bat Species
Caring for Crevice Bats and Tree Bats
Feeding / Watering:
Average Life Span:
Flight Practice:
Handling Bats
A nitrile glove worn under an unlined all leather glove is fine for handling most bats.
Use additional protection when handling rabies suspect bats, very aggressive bats or when handling the large hoary bats.
This could be a thicker glove or an additional, second, thin leather glove.
Always good idea to wear a nitrile glove as first layer of protection. While they are very thin they do offer a fair amount of protection against bites. If you do get bit they can be filled with water to test for leaks to help determine if bite broke the skin.

Crevice bats should be held gently in a closed secure hand.
They are more comfortable in confined spaces.
Tree bats prefer to be held loosely in a more open hand.
Tree bats held too tightly may panic and try to escape.
Being held too tightly is very stressful for tree bats and they may react violently to being confined.
Violent behaviors may include biting, snapping, chewing with unfocused eyes, biting at food but not swallowing, spitting out fluids, twitching.
These behaviors often look like symptoms of rabies.
Housing Bats in Rehab
Small soft sided butterfly tents good for a single tree bat or injured bat that need to be on limited movements.
Also good for transporting bats.
Larger soft sided dog or cat kennels good for non -flighted bats in long-term care, juveniles starting to fly and keeping multiple crevice bats together.
Large tents or flight rooms good for getting bats ready for release.
Enclosures should always be large enough that bats can spread their wings without touching the sides.
Personally prefer soft sided kennels in stead of reptariums. Reptarium mesh may irritate wing tips and can be hard on feet and thumbs.
Strong Rare Earth magnets used to hang roosting items.
Can add and move enrichment items but don't change location of food and water bowls.
Easy Comfort Room Humidifiers can be used to raise humidity in a kennel. On Amazon 2 for ~$13.
Glass water bowls should be less than 3/4 in deep.
Enclosures for Tree Roosting Species
Different Diets for Different Species
Ohio bats do not eat random insects.
Different bat species eat different types of insects.
The diets of different bat species are determined by the bats:
wing size and shape
tooth structure
cranial structure
amount of muscle mass in the skull
habitat where they feed
availability of insects
What Insects Do Bats Eat?
Researchers have analyzed the fecal matter of wild bats to determine what insects they ate.
The insects were rated by the hardness of their body.
1 = softest insects (mayflies, termites, lacewings etc.)
5 = hardest insects (beetles and weevils)
The diets of bat species were then rated 1 - 5 according to what insects they ate.
1 = Silver haired bats (1.75) and Little brown bats (1.42)
2= Tricolored bats (2.77), Eastern red bats (2.52), Hoary Bats (2.47)
3 = Evening bat (3.24) and Indianan bat (3.85)
4 = Big Brown Bats (4.14)
5 = No Ohio bats in this category (leaf nosed bats).
Soft-food Diet (Bat Mash)
It is a diet of pureed mealworms with vitamins and supplements mixed in.
It can be given once a week to all captive insectivore bats to help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Especially for bats in long term care.
Signs of nutritional deficiencies may include hair loss, dull patchy coat and depigmentation of wing membranes.
Hair loss may also indicate other health problems.
Adult bats unable to chew solid food can be maintained on this diet for the remainder of their life.
Soft food diet can be mixed with formula for weening juveniles.
Feeding Bats in General
Self-feeding bats in rehab may occasionally not eat for one night.
This is normal and will happen periodically.
If a bat that normally self-feeds stops eating for 2-3 nights in a row hydrate that bat with lactated ringers at 0.05 ml/g of body weight and hand-feed favorite insects or soft food diet.
If feeding wild caught insects to captive bats, do fecal exams every 6 months to check for parasites.
Make sure wild caught insects species are appropriate for bat being fed and do not collect insects where pest controls are used.
Allow pregnant and lactating females to eat as much as they want.
Always offer water, usually by syringe, until bats regularly self-feed.
Feeding and Weight
It is normal for bats to increase weight in fall and lose weight in spring.
In the fall a bat's body mass can increase 20-30% in less than two weeks.
This is achieved by spending more time in torpor after feeding, not by eating more.
This is why rehab bats gain weight in the fall when caretakers did not increase the amount of food being fed.
Big brown bats can become very overweight in the fall and winter.
Occasionally a bat may become very food aggressive (especially in fall) if food is restricted too much in order to maintain a lower weight.
Need to balance psychological need to eat and gain weight in the fall while not letting them get too overweight.
It is very difficult to get bats to loose weight in the fall, much easier late winter and early spring.
Feeding Crevice Bats
Most crevice bats can be taught to self-feed.
Big brown bats usually learn to eat mealworms from a dish or off the floor of their enclosure fairly quickly.
A 1-2 inch deep smooth sided bowl for mealworms works best for most bats.
Best water dishes are glass, 1/4 - 3/4 inch deep.
Water bowls deeper than 3/4 inch deep increase
possibility of drowning, add marbles to the bottom.
Big brown bats, little brown bats and some
myotis species may learn to self-feed by
watching other bats self-feed.
Thrift stores great places to find food and
water dishes for bats.
Feeding Tree Bats
Tree bats do not seek out food or water in their enclosures.
They will not go to the floor of their enclosures to find food or water but can be trained to eat from a dish.
Tree bats are more difficult to teach to self-feed and must be hand fed or placed in a position over dish of mealworms at feeding time.
Water dish should be less then 3/4 in deep and placed up high in the enclosure within easy reach of their daytime roosting place.
Even then they may not drink from a dish.
Always offer water by hand to tree bats, soak their insect in water before feeding and mist plants with water.
These bats become dehydrated easily in captivity.
Always monitor for dehydration.
Dehydrated bats may have dull and dry wing membranes as well as sunken eyes.
Some tree bats may require sub-Q fluids periodically.
Temperature is the most important physical factor in roost selection.
Bats need warmer roosts to give birth and cooler roosts for hibernation.
Most Ohio bats in captivity do well at a room temperature 77 - 82 F.
Big brown bats prefer a slightly cooler temperature.
Sick bats benefit from a slightly higher temperature.
A bat that is lethargic or hangs with its wings open may be too hot.
Caution: torpor can easily be mistaken for lethargy.
Infant bats without fur need warmer temperatures.
Infant bats being hand-fed formula need temps around 90 F.
Temperature can be lowered gradually over several weeks as the pup becomes able to thermoregulate its body temperature.
Do not expose bats to drafts.
Pregnant females need an ambient temperature of 90 - 100 F.
They should be in an incubator.
All captive bats need a natural light and dark cycle.
A natural day / night light cycle is needed to regulate metabolic processes and maintain good health.
If there are no windows in the room use a light timer to simulate a natural light cycle.
Timers should reflect changing day length.
Bats should never be housed in continuous light or darkness.
Bats kept in a room with too low of humidity can have problems with dehydration resulting in loss of appetite and dry wing membranes.
Wing membranes of well hydrated bats will appear glossy.
The high humidity that bats have in the wild can not be safely achieved indoors.
Most bats hibernate in a humidity of 66 - 95%.
High humidity indoors promotes mold growth and this poses a risk to bats and people.
Maintaining a relative humidity (RH) of 60% indoors is an acceptable level for adult bats and inhibits mold growth.
RH below 62% stops all chance of mold growth and most mold won't grow under 70%.
Sick, infant and weak bats need a higher relative humidity level.
It is especially difficult to achieve proper humidity levels indoors in the winter.
Buildings are normally very dry environments in winter.
Ways to increase humidity in a room during winter:
humidifier (must be cleaned weekly)
EasyComforts Room Humidifiers (Picture right)
Good for increasing humidity in a small area.
Keeled calcar
Tragus: a flap of skin at the base of the external ear
How long do they live?
Crevice bats have a much longer lifespan then tree bats, both in the wild and in human care.
Hoary and Red bats typically only survive 1 - 4 years (6 years max.) in human care.
Big brown bats have lived for 23+ years in human care.
Banded little brown bats have lived for over 30 years in the wild.
There is no reliable non-harmful way to determine the age of an adult bat.
Ossification of bones can be used to distinguish juvenile bats from adult bats. Look at the metacarpal-phalangeal wing joint in front of a small bright light.
Old bats often have larger knuckle joints, facial hair loss and dull teeth.
Getting bats ready for release.
Act of flying places great stress on the wing bones of bats.
Young bats must be near adult size and have good bone density before they can fly.
Bats must be able to demonstrate perfect flight ability before being released.
They must be able to sustain flight for 5-10 minutes non-stop and must be able to land on the ceiling or upper part of room or flight cage.
A bat that lands on the floor is not ready for release.
Bats that have been in human care for more than a few days should be given daily flight exercise.
As a general rule of thumb, bats need one night of flight practice for every week they have been in captivity.
At minimum bats should be allowed 10-20 min. of flight practice per day.
Ideally bats getting ready for release should have constant access to flight room/tent.
If netting a bat in flight is necessary, make sure hoop size of net is larger than the wingspan of the bat.
Netting a bat in flight poses risk of physical injury to the bat.
Releasing Crevice Bats
Release crevice bats at nightfall, not dusk. Easier for predators to find bats at dusk.
Release bat in the same place where it was found. If original location is not known release the bat in an area where another colony of the same species is found.
Best to release when colony is out flying around.
Bats can be placed in an unoccupied bat house to leave when ready.
If the bat is still in the bat house the next day, palpate the abdomen to see if the bat ate overnight. Often bats that are still in the bat house the next day don't leave or eat over night. In this case the bat is not ready for release. Remove bat from bat house, continue to feed and try again at a later date.
Bats can also be released by allowing it to hang from a gloved hand extended above the person's head.
Some bats will fly off quickly others will take a few moments to orient themselves and will fly off when ready.
Never toss the bat into the air.
If bat refuses to fly off on its own, attempt to release again at a later date.
Take a flashlight along during release in case retrieval of bat is necessary.
Do not place bat on the side of a tree or building, it may be eaten by a predator before it flies away.
Releasing Tree Bats
They can be released in the general area from which they were found.
Place the bat in the branches of a tree (not on the trunk) at least 10 feet off the ground with a clear drop underneath.
Best to put the bat in a small forked branch with rough bark and leaves.
Do not disturb bat prior to release, especially moms with pups.
If disturbed, female bat may fly off and leave her pups behind.
Monitor bat after release.
Releasing Hand-Raised Orphans
Recent data finds that hand-raised bat pups can survive after release without the opportunity to learn how to hunt insects from their mothers.
Pups have the innate ability to capture insects without being taught, as long as they have proficient flight skills prior to release.
Orphaned red bats have learned to forage and avoid predators on their own.
Big brown bat pup admitted to rehab in June 2003, weighing 2.9g, was released in August 2003 and recaptured one month later in excellent physical condition weighing 17.0g.
The Soft-food Diet Recipe
Put 1 cup of mealworms in the freezer for at least a few hours.
In a glass blender put 1/3 cup very cold water and gradually add frozen mealworms while blending on highest setting.
Blend water and mealworms until it's the consistency of honey.
Add 2 tablespoons bland baby food (sweet potato, apple, peas, carrots, pear etc.) and 2 tablespoons organic or non-gmo corn oil to blender and mix.
In a separate bowl mix together the following ingredients:
1 teaspoons of Missing Link (by Well Blend)
1 teaspoons Vionate (vitamin / mineral supplement)
1/4 teaspoon organic spirulina
Add the bowl of dry supplements to blender and mix.
It is very important that the mealworm mix remains cool while blending. If it overheats it will spoil.
Adding an ice cube while blending can help mixture remain cool and prevent spoiling.
Recipe makes enough for 15 - 20 bats
Feeding the soft-food diet.
The soft-food diet can be kept in a refrigerator for 3 days or in a freezer for up to 90 days.
Soft-food diet that has already been thawed should not be refrozen.
Make sure mealworms are blended well or clumps will clog syringes while feeding.
Can test by trying to draw up mealworms mix in syringe while in blender.
Best to use 1 or 3 cc syringes for feeding the soft food diet.
Once syringe is filled with soft food diet place syringe in bowl of warm water.
Food should be moderately warm when fed.
Hold bat so head is parallel to its body and place a drop of food in the bats mouth.
Never feed a bat in a head up position when feeding any food.
Point the syringe toward the chin to avoid getting soft diet in the bat's nose.
Feed slowly. Some bats may try and eat too fast causing them to aspirate.
If soft food diet is the only food a bat is getting feed soft food diet twice a day and also offer viscera from live mealworms at each feeding.
A 10-20 g bat will eat 1.0 - 2.0 ml per feeding.
A 20-35 g bat will eat up to 3.0 ml per feeding.
Soft food diet that is turning rancid will develop air bubbles that can be seen in the syringe.
Little brown bat toe hairs
Soft-food Diet:
C3PO a Big Brown Bat
C3PO developed patchy hair loss and severe wing depigmentation after being in rehab for an extended period of time.
Started him on:
soft-food diet twice a week
one drop of organic flax seed oil per day
misted wings with pure aloe spray once a day to help with dryness
Wings were greatly improved after three weeks.
Wings completely healed after about six weeks.
Patchy hair cleared up and coat looked normal after about eight weeks.
No other treatment or medication was given.
Severe wing depigmentation
Same wing three weeks after treatment
Sources Used
Barnard, Susan M. Bats in Captivity: Biological and Medical Aspects. Vol 1. 1st. ed. Washington DC: Logos Press, 2009. Print.
Barnard, Susan M. Bats in Captivity: Aspects of Rehabilitation. Vol 2. 1st. ed. Washington DC: Logos Press, 2010. Print.
Barnard, Susan M. Bats in Captivity: Diet and Feeding-Environment and Housing. Vol 3. 1st. ed. Washington DC: Logos Press, 2011. Print.
Barnard, Susan M. Bats in Captivity: Legislation and Public Education. Vol 4. 1st. ed. Washington DC: Logos Press, 2012. Print.
Brack Jr., Virgil. Bats of Ohio. 1st. ed. Indiana: Indiana State University Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation, 2010. Print.
Lollar, Amanda. Standards and Medical Management for Captive Insectivorous Bats. 1st. ed. Mineral Wells, Texas: Bat World Sanctuary Publications, 2010. Print.
It is unfortunate that the average person has a deep prejudice against the bat.

Without looking or thinking for himself, he accepts a lot of absurd tales about the winged one, and passes them on and on, never caring for the injustice he does or the pleasure he loses.

The bat is the climax of creation in many things, highly developed in brain, marvelously developed in senses, clad in exquisite fur and equipped, above all, with the crowning glory of flight.

He is the prototype and realization of the Fairy of the Wood we loved so well as children, and hated so to be robbed of by grown-ups, who should have known better.

I would give a good deal to have a bat colony where I could see it daily, and would go a long way to meet some new kind of bat.

Earnest Thomas Seaton,

Cartilaginous joint of a juvenile bat on the left. Calcified joint of an adult bat on the right.
Calcar: a piece of cartilage that extends from the heel to support the wing membrane. Keeled: amount of bend or angle of the calcar.
A federal and state endangered species.
Housing Bats Together
What I feed my homecare bats:
All my my bats are fed a diet of gut-loaded mealworms.
I will pick out the softer whiter (recently shed) mealworms for any silver-haired, little brown, tri-colored, red or hoary bats I have.
Larger harder mealworms are fed to the big browns.
Prior to feeding, mealworms are dusted with a mixture (in salt shaker):
Organic Spirulina (1/4 tsp)
Missing Link (2 tsp)
Vionate (2 tsp)
Plaque Off (2 tsp)

Wax worms:
I don't feed many of them because you can't gut load them.
Will occasionally feed wax worm innards to skinny bats that aren't eating mealworms well.
They have lots of fat and can cause dental issues if fed often.
Important to brush the bat's teeth after feeding wax worms.
Skin if difficult to chew.

Crickets and wax worms are okay occasionally for enrichment.

Dental issues are often a problem in long term captive bats.
Big Brown bats are particularly susceptible to dental issues such as plaque deposits, gum infections and abscesses.
Debris on toes of Big Brown bats may indicate tooth or gum problems. They comb their toe nails through their fur to groom then remove the debris from their toes with their teeth. Bats with sore teeth may not keep their toes clean.
Red line on the gums is the first sign of dental issues.
If this occurs antibiotics may keep teeth from getting infected.
Abscess on a bat's face is also an indication of dental problems.
Abscess will need drained and most likely infected tooth will need to be extracted.
Bats in long term care should have their teeth brushed once a week.
Use a disposable lipstick brush and OraVet oral gel for dogs.
Dip brush in water and gel.
Brush the bat's teeth, allow bat to chew on the brush.
Then rinse the brush and brush teeth with water only.
Rinse teeth with water from syringe with canula tip.
Bat in head down position.
Get zippered floor, not velcro.
Enclosures for Crevice Roosting Species
Several crevice bats and be housed together in a soft sided kennel.
Crevice bat enclosures should have:
Different types of towels, drawer liner mesh, and fleeces to hide under.
Don't use towels with loops or holes.
Crevices to hide in: small fabric pouches, vivarium foam (www.t-rexproducts. com) and hide huts designed for small birds.
Don't over crowd bats. Give everyone enough space and roosting choices.
Kennel set up for several crevice bats.
Easy Comfort Room Humidirers
Flight Room
Adult hoary bats and red bats with pups should always be housed alone with their pups.
Never put other adult bats or even pups from different moms in with them.
Tree bat females won't foster another bat's pups and may even kill it.
Tree bats without pups may or may not be able to be housed with other bats.
It depends on temperament of the bats, size of enclosure, number of roosting places etc.
It can done successfully before just use caution and make
sure there is ample space and roosting options.

Crevice bats should always be housed with other crevice bats.
They often do well in mixed species groups.
Use caution when putting tiny tri-colored bats with larger species.
They usually do well with silver haired bats and myotis species
but may not do so well with the larger species like the big browns.
Big brown bats that are pregnant or with pups may do better in a group with other females.
Use caution, there is the possibility that other non-pregnant females or females without
pups would be aggressive to the mom and her pups.
Don't put preganant females or females with pups with male bats.

Be mindful of keeping many bats together in an enclosure of flight area. If one bat comes down with rabies, all other bats housed with that one may all have to be euthanized or quarantined.
Access to water.
Ropes and mesh touching ground to give bats a way to climb back up if they land on the floor and get grounded.
Use caution if sheet are on the ground, bats may get under them. Don't want to step on them.
Provide a wide variety of place to roost so bats can roost where most comfortable and get away from others they don't want to roost with.
Transition bats gently from enclosures to flight room.
Put small enclosures in larger ones.
Leave doors open.
What To Feed Bats in Human Care
Anyone handling bats must have their pre-exposure rabies vaccine.
Pre-exposure vaccines do not eliminate the need for post-exposure treatment after a rabies exposure, they just simplify it.
If you are scratched or bitten by a bat, even if bat is not exhibiting symptoms of rabies, post exposure vaccine is advised.
Incubation period (period of time between exposure and appearance of first clinical signs) for rabies in bats can be over a year.
The virus has been detected in bat saliva 12 days prior to onset of clinical signs.
In other words, bats that appear to be healthy may be able to transmit the rabies virus.
Many Wallgreens Pharmacies carry post exposure rabies vaccines.
Check their website.
According to CDC wildlife workers should have rabies titers checked every 2 years.
If titer is less than complete neutralization at a 1:5 serum dilution
by the RFFIT, wildlife worker should have a single booster dose.
Always wear gloves when handling bats in front of the general public.
Symptoms of Rabies
According to CDC website, first signs of rabies in animals may be vague symptoms of lethargy, fever, vomiting and anorexia. Symptoms quickly progress to
cerebral dysfunction, cranial nerve dysfunction
, ataxia, weakness, paralysis, seizures, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, abnormal behavior, aggression and/or self mutilation.

Clinical signs of rabies in bats may include: ataxia, spastic paralysis of one or both legs, disoriented flight, seizures, attacks or chews on anything close to it, difficulty or inability to swallow food or liquids, lesions around mouth or chin, blisters under upper lip, dirt in mouth, abnormal vocalizations, hypersensitivity to sound or light, agitated or angry behavior, falls asleep while being examined, agonal respiration (high in the chest), hanging in exposed area, emaciated, glassy/watery eyes, heavy parasite load, aggressive biting, petechial hemorrhage of the ear(s).

If bitten by a bat, regardless of symptoms, flush wound extensively with water for several minutes. This will decrease the risk of bacterial infection from the bite as well as decrease risk of rabies virus infection. Then consult with your physician.
Personal Observations
I have had several bats in my care this year that have tested positive for rabies. All were big brown bats and all presented with rabies in a different way.
Orphan, juvenile, approx. 2 months old. Initially acted like a normal healthy juvenile bat. After about a week in care behavior changed literally over night. He became agitated and vocal, attacked the bat next to him and attacked the towel. Was also slightly shaky, trembling.
Adult bat found in a house. The first day I had him he was bitey, angry, covered in mites and had black tongue. He had no difficulty eating. Next day he was hypersensitive to sound, had high pitched vocalizations, slightly neuro, uncoordinated and had petechial hemorrhage on right ear. Sent for rabies testing.
Adult bat found on ground, thin (12g). I had this bat for 10 days before euthanizing for rabies testing. He came in with a little bit of a twitchy head, mostly when food held in front of his face. Lethargic, eyes partially closed, no vocalizations, no agitation. He was eating and gaining weight for the first 5 days. Could hang for first few days than became too weak to hang. Gave him fluids. Started on Baytril and Meloxicam. No improvement after 4 days of meds. Eventually started having slight wing spasms, two days later started having seizures and was euthanized. Until day he started seizing he was able to eat whole food but was slow to do so.
Any neurological symptoms and / or a sudden change in temperament or behavior should be a red flag.
Initial Exam
Observed bat for signs of rabies: uncoordinated or spastic movements, bity, agitated, chewing on towels or other materials, sensitivity to sound, high pitched vocalizations. Continue with exam if signs of rabies are not indicated.
Eyes and respiration are good indicators of how a bat is doing.
Eyes should be bright and open. Partially closed eyes are an indication of illness and / or dehydration.
Respiration should be seen in the pelvic area. If respiration is heavy, irregular, or seen more in the chest area bat is likely sick.
Check wings for dehydration, fractures, membrane tears, swollen joints, and bruising.
Cotton swab rubbed gently along jaw line will usually cause bat to open it's mouth and allow for check of teeth and gums. Look for broken or very worn teeth and color of gums.
Very worn teeth often indicate an older bat.
Pale gums my indicate anemia.
Check bats for parasites:
Bed bugs and bat bugs.
Late spring / early summer: palpate abdomen and check mammary glands of females. Possibly pregnant?
Crevice Bats and Tree Bats
In a rehab setting tree bats (red bats and hoary bats) are more delicate and difficult then the crevice bats.
Tree bats:
Don't tolerate anesthesia and surgery well.
Become easily dehydrated.
More fragile when receiving SQ fluids.
Are more sensitive when fluids are too warm or too cold and / or given too quickly.
When a tree bat starts urinating or defecating on themselves and / or stops grooming itself it is often a first indication that they are dying. Euthanasia should be considered.
Whenever a bat dies in your care learn as much as you can from that bat. Keep notes on the bat, physically examine the bat: look at teeth; wings; keel; etc., necropsy the bat, practice medical procedures such as giving fluids, repairing wing bone fractures etc., send bat for rabies testing is appropriate.
Most bats born breech, evening bats and possibly red bats born head first.
If you have a mother red bat with 3-4 pups in rehab, you may need to supplement feed formula to the pups to make sure they get enough nourishment.
When pups start chewing on nipples and have a good set of teeth start giving them a mix of 50% formula and 50% soft food diet.
When the wrists of juvenile bats are even with their nose they can transition to whole mealworms.
Very young pups and infants with dark bubble around genial area need stimulated.
Tree bats will not foster another bats baby.
Big brown bats may or may not be willing to foster a pup from another female.
At 7 weeks old big brown bats are still nursing from their mothers occasionally even though they are able to eat whole mealworms.
All Ohio bat species molt or shed their fur in the spring.
Molting starts at the head and progresses back toward the tail.
Some bats will get odd patches of hair loss.
They may even get a line of hair loss right down the middle of their back.
To assist bats with molting you can brush them gently with a disposable mascara wand with rubber bristles.
Juvenile bats should also be brushed to encourage grooming behavior.
Why Bats are Important
Many of the foods we eat and the medicines were use would not exist or would be more expensive if not for bats.


Tree bats do not do well in small confined spaces.
These bats must have large enclosures with soft mesh sides.
Soft sided dog kennels or butterfly enclosures work well.
These bats often flap around on floor at night and can injure themselves on hard surfaces and items on their floor.
Keep items off the floor as much as possible and don't have hanging towels dragging on the floor. They can get caught up in them if they hand down to the ground.
Tree bats may try to fly, even with severely injured wings, if housed in small enclosures.
Tree bat enclosures should have: artificial (silk) plants, branches with real leaves, rough branches (aids in foot health and naturally trim nails), tree bark, mature grape vine, small wicker baskets hung upside down.
Tree bats are prone to abrasions on thumbs, forearms, and toes in captivity.
Tree bats are solitary, in small enclosures, house adults alone except pups should stay with mom until they are weaned then separate pups from mom.
Red bat and big brown bat roosting close to each other.
Waiting patiently for food.
Temporary enclosure for one red bat.
Note no items on the floor of enclosure.
Everyone does something different in caring for their mealworms.
Do what works best for you and keeps your bats healthy.
What I do:
Substrate (by volume):
60% powdered organic (non-medicated) chick starter
38.5% wheat bran
1.5% calcium carbonate

Gut load mealworms daily with greens and vegetables, especially kale, romaine, spring mix greens, corn on the cob, carrots, sweet potato, winter squash.

Just prior to feeding dust mealworms with Vionate supplement.
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