When There’s a Bat in the Fish Tank!
Yes, I was awakened one morning to my son shouting that surreal question from downstairs. Of course I didn’t know there was a bat in the fish tank as I jumped out of bed wondering where we kept the little fish net. And there he was, poor thing! Imagine, his only grabby feet were his back ones, so every time he tried to grab the edge of the tank his sweet little face would get rudely dunked under the surface. He was not happy and the fish were confused by this alien encounter to say the least. Once scooped out (and I swear this was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen) he rested on firm ground and shook off in a wave from one end to the other… just like a scruffy dog but with the wave going in reverse, from tail to head. We boxed him up and released him from an open upstairs window just after sunset when the rest of his housemates who live in our bat boxes were heading out for night hunting.
Sharing our home with local bats has been wonder-filled and naturally educational. We learned to speedily count by 10’s from the hammock as 200-some of the swift flying mammals would nightly stream out of their boxes. We got photos whenever one would wind up inside (usually NOT in the fish tank), shared those with scientists and learned that we had at least three resident species. We researched each one and learned how some migrate long distances every year. We gave thanks to them for helping keep the biting mosquitoes (skeeters, if you will) away and considered how many bats are losing their natural roosts due to development and their longevity due to pesticides and human-spread fungus. Best of all, we had to problem solve whenever one would get in the house: How was it happening? How could we catch and release them without hurting them? How could we give them much needed water and food if they had been stuck inside for a long time and showed up dehydrated and very hungry. Yes, we did catch some moths to quickly toss in the blender with water for a slurry that we gave them with a medicine dropper… oh, what we’ve done for our bats… my kiddo insisted! The whole family learned so much. And, we finally figured out where they were getting in via our hollow rafters and had a cool bat specialist come and make miniature one-way screen doors that let our buddies out but not in. My son is now a bat advocate and helps others learn to not fear them!
Thanks to Jerimiah Rakoci of Outdoor Outlook for the pic of a handful of our bats: 2 Big Browns, 2 Brazilian/Mexican Free Tailed, and likely one little Pipistrelle with little round ears on the far left!
Check out our website for lessons and tool kits that help you and your kids be active local citizen scientists for your own wildlife!