Apr 10, 2024

Big Brown Bat Rises

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A Big Brown Bat was near death when he arrived at DCHS's Wildlife Center earlier this year. After steady care from wildlife rehabilitators, this bat made an amazing transformation.

On January 4th, 2024, an adult male big brown bat was admitted to Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center after it was rescued and transported by a building inspector who had found him on the floor of an empty office space downtown. The bat had no food or water for an unknown length of time and presented with desiccated (dried out) wing membranes at the tips of its fingers. He was almost at the point of death from emaciation and dehydration, but he was still alive with a will to survive. The bat was quickly triaged and evaluated by our team of licensed wildlife rehabilitators at DCHS’s Wildlife Center and placed in restricted, temporary housing with guarded hopes of recovery. Our partnering veterinarians from The University of Wisconsin Veterinary Care Zoological Medicine & Special Species Health Services prescribed the bat with antibiotics, pain medications, and fluids and nutritional support in addition to weekly progress evaluations.

Very few changes were noted during the first few weeks of admission, as the bat showed continuing signs of wing membrane and bone necrosis, meaning the cell and tissue in the affected areas had fully died. Staff knew this bat would have a long road to recovery, and he would need continual feeding and rehydration to regain body condition and energy levels that were necessary to begin tissue regrowth. By the end of February, big brown bat #24-0010 was eagerly self-feeding from his daily dish of mealworms and had gained over 8 grams of weight since admission! He had gone from an alarming state of 9 grams on intake to a “plump” and healthy condition, reaching almost 18 grams of weight. At that point, the recovery progress truly began for this bat.

The most amazing transformation happened at the end of March, when scar tissue began to form over the ends of the dried-out fingertips in the span of a few days. After a few weeks, he cleared the final veterinary re-checks and is estimated to be releasable by mid-April. It was an incredible transformation to document, knowing that it took our wildlife team so much time, care, and dedication to get this bat back to a point of fitness where it can return to his home environment. Eight species of bats can be found in Wisconsin, and of those, all four cave bats (big brown, little brown, northern long-eared, and eastern pipistrelle bats) are listed as state-threatened species. This bat will now have a chance to re-integrate to the population, contribute to the genetics and conservation of his species, and (hopefully) live a long time in the wild after getting his second chance here at DCHS.

Jackie Sandberg is the Wildlife Program Manager at DCHS's Wildlife Center.

Scar tissue forms over the ends of the bat's dried-out fingertips in the span of a few days.

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