If You Build it, Bats will Come!
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
WildCare of Western New York came to be because of an idea. Three experienced wildlife rehabilitators (with a combined total of 84 years of experience!) were all thinking about the same thing. That in order to secure a future for the wild animals we rehabilitate (and for all those who never needed our help in the first place), we must protect the habitat they need to survive. So they got together to work on how to do that in our little corner of the world and how to get people involved so they could help too.
However, you have to start somewhere. And there are always animals in need of help, so why not start with what we have done for so long… rehabilitation! A while back, in 2012, I had become interested in taking care of bats. I had seen several that were injured and in need of help, but these guys were always transferred to a rehabilitator with a special license. Bats, skunks and raccoons are considered rabies vector species (RVS) in New York State and a special license is required in order to rehabilitate these animals. I didn't have this special license, but I wanted to be able to help. Bats are such amazing little creatures and just so different from anything I had worked with before. So I got to work on getting the RVS license. Rabies vector species class… check! Rabies vaccinations… check! Next was to create a facility for bats that met all the RVS requirements and then have that facility inspected by a veterinarian from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets… not quite so easy.
First thing I had to do was to turn a room into "the bat cave". There could be no holes in the wall or cracks where a bat could slip under the door. This is harder than you think in an 1880 farm house. Layers of wallpaper had to be removed and giant holes had to be patched and spackled. Then a hole had to be cut into the wall to make a window where I could peek into the room before entering to make sure no bats had escaped. My husband helped with that ;) After many months of work and some finishing touches, the bat cave was finished! But where to put the bats…
Next I designed and constructed a large wooden box with ventilation through sturdy screens on the top and front, small horizontal grooves throughout the entire inside where the bats could grip and climb, and a latch that could be locked on the door. I made 2 of these; one for bats that needed treatment or while they were learning to eat, the second for hibernation during the winter. This still didn't account for an area to fly. So using 2x4 lumber and more screening, I put together a small flight area inside the bat cave with a hand made padded floor for those bats with injuries or babies learning to fly. Didn't want them to get hurt!
Effective June 1, 2013 I had received my RVS license! I started out slowly, but once people knew I took care of bats, the numbers increased… a bit!
2013 – 3 bats
2014 – 14 bats
2015 – 30 bats
2016 – 27 bats
2017 – 39 bats
2018 – 53 bats
So with more bats, I needed more space. I took over the spare room in order to make a large flight area (no more visitors for us!) I removed all the furniture and disassembled the bed, then set up the flight. A PVC frame was constructed to fit a pre-made mesh enclosure, and the bottom was secured under foam floor mats to make it "bat-proof". Now there was room for a larger group of bats to use in the winter while waiting for release time in the spring. So far, I have had enough space for them all!
Check out the pictures below to see a little of how the bat cave was created! Rehabilitation of bats is one of the ways WildCare is helping our wild neighbors. As our organization grows, we will work to do even more.