Updated: Aug 16, 2020
I can't help but notice we humans tend to label animals we don't call pets, with categories like food, test subject, or entertainment, (think zoos, marine world, rodeos, circuses). If they don't fit into one of these categories, then we relegate them to the category of pests. Yes, we give them a label that implies we were here first, and even if we were not, we don't care. Stay out of our yards, our gardens, our homes, and even our parks and golf courses. Somehow, we've forgotten we share this planet with a multitude of other living beings. It is this diversity of life that makes our planet both beautiful and mysterious. Given the available technology, research, and data available, I believe the time has come to recognize all animals, not just humans, as sentient beings with the fundamental right to live with dignity, respect and joy. As the current dominant species on earth, we need to both care and share about the other species that call our planet home.
I take time to learn and share what I’ve learned with others in hopes to increase tolerance and education about heartfully sharing our planet with other living creatures.
I've seen many posts lately about folks finding bats in their homes. I cringe when I think of the poor bats facing humans in an age where we are so disconnected from nature and expect instant results for every 'problem.' What if we turned the experience of finding a bat in our home upside down? What if in fact this were not a problem, but rather an opportunity to connect more deeply with nature, to learn more about the wildlife in our ecosystems, and to become better citizens of earth?
This leads me to sharing my own bat adventure last year, when I found a juvenile bat hanging upside down in my living room. One morning in mid-September, I noticed a dark blotch up near the ceiling of my living room; a shape much to large to be a spider. I walked upstairs to get a closer look from the cat walk. Or in this case, should I say the 'bat walk.' I remember calling down to my husband, "honey, we have a bat in the house!" Most women probably would have been screaming this statement in terror, but given I'm a bit of an 'animal nerd' I said it with a sense of wonder. How the heck did that little guy end up (a juvenile bat) end up in here? I strained my eyes to the black splotch hanging twenty feet up near the ceiling in the family room. Like many humans, my husbands first two thoughts were to call an exterminator or find a really long broom handle. I said in no uncertain terms, "don't worry, I'll take care of it." Due to this unexpected visitor, I decided to work from home, even though I’d just returned from 2 weeks off from an extended break from work. I spent the morning keeping an eye on the bat, not because I was afraid, but because I also had 2 dogs and 4 cats at that time. I quickly researched the topic humane removal of a bat from one’s home, (thank you Google). I located a bat rescue in Michigan and learned how 95% of the bats have been wiped out due to something called "white nose disease." In fact, I found that only the bats roosting in homes are managing to survive at this time. The rescuer indicated it doesn’t harm your home to have bats roosting in the walls during the winter months as they hibernate and do not poop or pee. I also learned the vast majority of home owners kill, or gravely injure bats they find in their homes and my heart sank a little because we humans have become so disconnected from nature that we've lost respect for life on the planet. I also found out that these are juvenile bats, approximately 4-6 weeks of age, that get into homes as they are learning to fly. I learned that bats are as smart as dolphins, and that even though the mama’s tell their babies NOT to go into human homes, sometimes juvenile bats don’t listen because they are curious. Anyone with teenagers can relate to that! I was also quite surprised to learn that a grounded bat cannot fly and will die – they must be put into a tree, or lifted to something higher in order to take flight. I learned that you should never put a bat outside if it is cold, raining, or in the winter, as it is an absolute death sentence. And then, much to no one's surprise, I fell in love with my bat. I called my husband to excitedly share all of this amazing information, and he with his constant good humor, helped me name our bat Count Batula.
I live my values out loud so because I see how it effect change. Even if it means being labeled 'the crazy cat lady' or 'the weirdo who takes bugs outside instead of killing them (at work).' I'm good with being the weirdo if it means a kinder gentler world for all species on the planet.
Following the direction provided by the bat rescue, I waited until it gets dark, patiently hoping my bat will start moving soon. I comforted my cats and dogs who tolerantly waited, closed up in a bedroom for 4+ hours as we waited for our bat to wake up. I called the bat rescuer back to inform her of my sleeping bat, wondering if he is OK. She reinforces the safe removal plan, making sure all my windows and doors to the outside are open. All the doors on the interior of my home are shut. The ceiling fans are off and all pets are on lock-down. The lights in the house are off, and the exterior lights are on. I have a piece of cardboard and leather work gloves on just in case I need to gently help my bat find the way out should he land on the floor or in the curtains. Just as I am telling the rescuer on the other line I'm worried my bat is sick or perhaps worse, I look up and notice that he's on the go!
My husband and I watch with awe and excitement as our bat flies silently around the house, through the kitchen, through the dining room, over the catwalk, under the catwalk, using radar to seek out the openings we’ve created after removing all the exterior screens, and opening all the exterior doors. I feel the cool wind on my face created by its magical wings as it flies past me, trying to find a way out. I am utterly amazed that I hear nothing as this creature flies so silently and gracefully, so close to me that I feel a breeze from BAT WINGS! I am also amazed how something that appeared so tiny, suddenly looked so large one the wings were fully extended. You cannot pay for an experience like this - I was literally clapping and shouting with joy as it flew right out the front door. I went running after it like a little girl, watching it disappear into the shadows of the night. I laughed with glee as I shared the happy outcome with the rescuer, who was laughing with me on the other end of the line. She tells me how grateful she is for a happy story, as she’s had 6 gravely injured juveniles this week by people who have hurt them trying to remove them from their homes. These magnificent creatures have the most delicate bone structures in their wings.
This is what joy is. This is what REAL LIFE is about. I go downstairs and do my yoga, feeling so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this creature’s existence, and to learn how I can help by sharing what I know with others. I posted my information on my website and Facebook in hopes that someone will read it and find tolerance, respect, or even appreciation for the lives of these beautiful creatures. I share what I’ve learned with everyone I know, even the people that don’t care about animals, or worse see animals as pests or unfeeling life-forms here to service mankind. I write a blog and post it on my website. This is the time of year humans are going to find bats in their homes. I hope they will be kind.
Got a bat in your belfry? Go here to find out what to do https://www.batcon.org/about-bats/bats-in-homes-buildings/. Looking for a local bat rehabilitation specialist or bat rescuer to provide you support with the safe and humane removal of a bat or bats? Bat World Sanctuary provides a nationwide list of wildlife rehabilitators.
According to Batworld.org, "bats are clean, gentle and intelligent," and are vital to the many ecosystems in which they are found. They are like vacuum cleaners, eating millions of harmful bugs. Motherearthnews.com notes that "a single bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquito-sized insects every hour, and each bat usually eats 6,000 to 8,000 insects each night. We should be grateful for their appetite for mosquitoes, because not only does this make a backyard more comfortable, but it also protects us by eating insect-pests that destroy crops as well as insects that cause human disease. In fact, most of what we humans know about bats, are well, urban legend and downright untrue. You can learn more about bat myths and facts, but just to get you started on the right path, please know that bats are clean, shy, gentle, and intelligent. And while bats don’t "carry rabies," these gentle creatures can catch the disease like any other mammal. Left alone in the wild to live in peace they fare quite well. However, at this time on the planet they are more prone to disease due to the activities of humans destroying habitat and polluting the water, vegetation and air in critical ecosystems. They are also more prone to disease when captured or bred in captivity to be used as entertainment and food in the now world-famous wet markets across Asia. The truth is, less than one-half of one percent of bats contract rabies You have more risk of contracting rabies from your own pets than you have from bats. More people die annually from contact with household pets than have died from contact with bats in all recorded history. Unless you count the people eating bats and creating world-wide pandemics. Perhaps respecting nature and treating fellow species with kindness and respect is a lesson mother nature is teaching us on an archetypal level. I sure hope we learn it - for the sake of all species surviving on the planet, not just the messiest, greediest and most inconsiderate species.
What will we do when there are no bats to eat the mosquitoes? When all the bees die due to poor habitat, changing weather and pesticides? Is having a perfect front lawn worth the cost of no bees or pollinators? What will life on earth be like when many of the animals we all knew as children, can only found in text books a few generations out? We are all part of an ecosystem. We need these creatures as much as they need us. Humans are destroying their habitat, and leaving most them without a place to live or food to survive. So, if some unexpected visitor shows up in your yard or your home, maybe take a moment to learn something about this creature. Find kindness in your heart, and take some time out of your busy schedule to honor its life. See the opportunity for adventure and education! Maybe instead of trying to rid your property of "pests," you'll feel inspired to create the right habitat and attract bats to your yard. Refrain from using pesticides, put up a bat house, and watch the little buggers eating all the mosquitoes in your yard each night.
I choose to live out my beliefs authentically, no shame or embarrassment because the best way to share my message is by example. Of course, there are consequences, such as getting heckled and being labeled "the cat lady” by a judgey neighbor, but that says a lot more about her than it does about me! This was after taking in over 40 kittens and 15 adults, doing door-to-door fundraising, and a fairly massive spay neuter program to reduce over 50 strays in an old neighborhood. I've also been teased by co-workers because I prefer to take bugs outside rather than letting people kill them. I’ve learned to be proud and loud about what I believe, because even the most hard-nosed humans can change – I’ve seen it over and over. The people who used to make fun of me, now come up to me to share how they took a spider or some other bug outside instead of killing it. Now that's what I'm talking about. After all, just because you can kill something doesn't mean you should. All life is sacred. My wish for all of us is we find magic, beauty, and joy in the creatures that reside in your yard and neighborhood.
To learn more about how you can get involved with bat conservation in Michigan visit Michigan's Department of Natural Resources.
Love & Light!