Cookin', Critters and Chillun

Bats in the…wine bar?

I figured it was about time for some animal high jinx; the wildlife have been too quiet around our place lately.

The outdoor animals have been behaving, except for those dratted squirrels stealing not only the bird food last week but also the suet cage – what do they do with those things, anyway? I never even find the chain, much less the mesh cage.

This little brown bat was returned to the wild after showing up under our wine refrigerator. Photo by Meg Hibbert
This visitor, later identified as a silver-haired bat, was returned to the wild after showing up under our wine refrigerator. Photo by Meg Hibbert

I wasn’t prepared for our latest houseguest, however. The cats evidently knew he (she? I didn’t check) was with us one cold morning last week, and were most interested in a plant caddy in a corner of the dining room. I figured they were sniffing out one of the white-footed mice that love to spend the winter with us when they can.

But I was totally unprepared when I found Jade, the Himalayan, crouched in front of the small wine refrigerator in the living room that night. The face peeking out from under the cooler was darker brown than a field mouse and it was making clicking noises.

Yep, a little brown bat. By the time I had snagged a plastic container from the kitchen and returned with the idea of moving the cooler, the bat had scooted out and was tip-toeing toward the door.

I say tip-toeing. I’m not sure how you describe the motion a bat makes when it is walking on its little bat feet instead of flying. I’m not certain the bat could fly, especially after it had evidently been in the house for a day or maybe more without whatever bats eat during the winter. Aren’t bats supposed to be hibernating right now, particularly when the outside temperature is a toasty 23 degrees?

Anyway, I got between the bat and the cat, flopped the clear plastic container over the winged one and scooped a lid underneath before showing the furry houseguest to my husband, Bill.

Bill’s first question was, “How did it get in?”

Maybe in a box of cold-storage apples recently brought in? Hiding in the Christmas tree? When the outside door was open? Not down the chimney, surely. We have fireplace inserts and those glass doors were closed.

My questions were more like, “Is the bat rabid?” recalling all those rabies stories people that first greeted us when we moved to Virginia.

After taking several close-up pictures of the bat – through the container, of course – I closed the door on the cats and took the bat outside to release him, figuring he would fly away as soon as he got his bearings.

Meanwhile, he treated me to a view of his open pink mouth and more click-clicks before scuttling off the glass-top table and finally, over the edge of the deck before disappearing underneath.

He probably would have rather been inside our 72-degree house instead of the 20-plus-degree outside and lightly blowing snow, but I wasn’t asking.

And no, we still don’t know how the bat got in.

Gratefully, I’d say.

NOTE – Rick Reynolds, a Virginia small mammal expert from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, called from Staunton, Va., and from my other photos later identified the bat – by a white spot on its elbow – as a “silver haired bat, a so-called “tree bat,” instead of a “little brown bat.”  Also, see Chris Hobson’s similar response, and what Will Orndorff had to say, under Responses.

2 Comments

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  • I suspect that bat is sick, affected by White Nose Syndrome (WNS), an emerging fungal pathogen that is killing bats in large numbers from New England through Pennsylvania and as of last year Virginia and West Virginia. The disease was first identified in 2006, with the initial epidemic in 2007 in the Albany, NY area. Mortality in that area is over 90%. Since then WNS has spread rapidly south down the spine of the Appalachians, affecting dominantly bats that hibernate underground in caves and old mines. One of the characteristics of the WNS outbreak is the appearance of bats on the landscape during winter when they should be in deep hibernation. In the photo on the website, there is a film of what may be Geomyces fungus on the left forearm. For more information on White Nose Syndrome, go to http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html.

  • Wil mentions a lot of good points, but I will hasten to recognize the bat you showed in your article as a silver haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), a so called “tree bat” and not one that has been shown to be affected by white nose syndrome (WNS) to date. These are usually solitary bats that prefer to hibernate in isolation, and not in caves, but can be found under shutters, roofing, in sheds, and in wood piles. This species routinely roosts in piles of wood, and can be brought in with firewood, and other outside materials, thus the question, why is it active, and not hibernating…probably rousted from its hibernation site for some reason…not likely a WNS casualty, at least not yet. Your mention of a wood stove insert and cold storage apples, give me two good reasons for its occurence in your house. WNS is indeed a problem, and folks should report bats in the open during winter, or those exhibiting abnormal behavior…in this case, I would not suspect WNS, but Wil’s other point is that it may be sick, and it may indeed…rabies is an issue, and there are strains that are particularly potent associated with this bat. Your cat, if it had direct contact with this bat, needs to be watched carefully for abnormal symptoms. If it had no contact, it should not be a problem. Again, this bat is a silver-haired bat, and not a “little brown” bat. The common name “little brown bat” is typically associated with the bat Myotis lucifugus…while yours may be little and brown it is not M. lucifugus, a little bronw bat, and there is an important distinction that relates to WNS that the bat in your photo does not share…it is not colonial, and is not typically a cave dweller, as most of the bats affected by WNS tend to be cave dwellers, yours most likely is not suffering from WNS.

    I hope this note helps.

    Chris Hobson

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