Baby Bat – June 2005

I’ve learned a lot more about caring for baby bats since I first posted this in 2005. Still, it was my introduction to caring for bats under the guidance and supervision of a permitted wildlife rehabilitator.

While trimming some bushes along the side of my house on the morning of June 23, 2005, I saw something that I first thought was a dead leaf on a branch. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a baby Big Brown bat. Each spring a colony of pregnant bats roosts in the louvers of our attic on the west side of the house (totally ignoring the bat house I installed at the edge of my yard…), and every year an unfortunate baby or two falls out of the louvers.

I thought it was dead and so I started to put the branch (with inverted bat still attached) in my garden cart–but then it moved!

The baby was so young that it was still hairless, and it was so weak that it wasn’t even “peeping.” (A baby bat that’s separated from its mother will peep almost constantly.) Even if its mother was still alive–unfortunately, many Big Brown bats are eaten by owls–it was very early in the day and I didn’t think the baby would survive unattended until nighttime. So what to do?

I called a local bat and wildlife rehabilitator in Virginia. Specially licensed bat rehabilitators are trained to care for lost or injured bats, and she said that I should keep it warm and try to get it to drink some Pedialyte until I was able to bring it to her.

I quickly rigged up a makeshift “incubator” on my front porch. I put a ziplock bag filled with warm water in a small basket inside a box, and then I positioned a clamp lamp over the box to provide additional warmth.

I’ve since learned that I should have heated uncooked rice in an old sock in the microwave. The soft sock would have provided warmth and comfort, without the added stress of the bright light over the box.

But once the box was ready, branch and bat were transferred to the impromptu “nursery” and I went to the store for the Pedialyte. After warming the unflavored liquid, I offered it to the bat with a small, clean, soft paintbrush. To my surprise, it lapped at the Pedialyte and it began peeping and moving around. Amazing! (I wonder how many people can say they’ve seen a baby bat’s tongue?)

Big Brown bats are “crevice dwellers” and they aren’t designed to hang from branches. This poor baby simply couldn’t get comfortable.

After taking a short nap, it drank a little more of the Pedialyte. Then, more active, it wiggled and crawled its way out of the small basket and onto the bottom of the box.

Since I was ready to take it to Robin, the wildlife rehabilitator, I removed the basket and branch, closed the box, and put it in the car. It was very strange to hear light scratching coming from the box while I was driving–especially since I knew what was IN the box! It’s not every day that I find myself transporting a baby Big Brown bat in a box….

I left the box at the rehabber’s barn, along with my phone number and address. When Robin called a short time later, she said that the bat–a baby girl–was doing surprisingly well and that the Pedialyte had probably saved her life, warding off dehydration.

As with most young mammals, however, they need to be raised by their mothers if at all possible, and so the decision was made to return the baby to my house in hopes that its mom would retrieve it. We started just before dark and made a special platform below the louvers. The bat was placed in the folds of a pillow case which had a piece of nylon screen sewn in the center. A bag filled with warm, uncooked rice was placed behind the baby to keep it from getting chilled. (Note: Permitted wildlife rehabilitators who work with rabies vector species are vaccinated against this disease. Unvaccinated people should always, always wear gloves.)

A little before 10 p.m. Robin came back to check on the baby bat. Unfortunately she was still in the pillow case and the rice bag had cooled down. I heated the rice again and Robin gave her more of the Pedialyte, which she eagerly lapped up. Robin returned her to the pillow case, hoping to give the mom a little more time to retrieve her.

I checked on her again at 12:30 a.m. and she was still unclaimed. The temperature was in the mid-60s, the rice bag had cooled, and so (wearing Kevlar gloves that Robin had given me) I gently removed her from the screen she was clinging to, gave her more Pedialyte, and placed her in the carrier that she’d been brought back in. (I first reheated the rice bag so that the carrier was nice and warm.) She spent the night in my house, shut in a dark bathroom.

By morning she was alert and very hungry–and her tiny eyes were open for the first time! She enthusiastically licked up the Pedialyte, actually latching onto the paintbrush and sucking on it, but it clearly wasn’t what she wanted or needed. After hydrating her, I re-warmed the rice bag, put her back in the carrier and headed back to Robin’s farm, where she received a baby bat-appropriate breakfast.

As it appeared that this baby was orphaned, she was hand-raised by the bat specialist until she was able to fend for herself.


As I say on each of the “bat pages,” I was caring for this baby Big Brown bat with the support of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. As a safety-conscious rescuer and temporary caregiver, I can help keep a young or injured wild animal warm and hydrated, but turning it over to a wildlife specialist gives it the best possible chance of surviving and someday returning to its natural habitat, where it belongs.


There is so much misinformation, superstition and fear about bats. One long-standing myth is that “all bats” are rabid. Not true! Less than one-half of one percent of bats contract rabies, but that said, it is important to remember that any frightened or injured wild animal can bite! For that reason, no bat should be handled with bare hands. Wildlife rehabilitators who plan to work with rabies vector species must receive a series of pre-exposure rabies vaccinations before they can be licensed.

I think that our cultural view of bats has been largely shaped by frightening images of “Dracula” and Halloween. By contrast, in China bats are seen as symbols of happiness, longevity and good luck!

The unfortunate bat in a house–scared witless and usually being chased by a frantic human armed with a tennis racket or broom–is certainly going to look and sound as fierce as it possibly can. Additionally, most pictures of bats show them in a defensive posture, and that has only served to perpetuate the very negative and scary image that people have of them.

Bats are mammals, meaning that the babies are born alive and suckle milk from their mothers. On average, female bats give birth to just one baby per year, and they can live for 20 years! They are more closely related to primates than they are to rodents, and they are not blind. Many species of bats are in danger of extinction due to White Nose Syndrome, loss of habitat, and accidental or intentional eradication and extermination due to human fear and ignorance.

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