I Am Not Hazardous Waste, said the Bat

Monday morning as staff rolled into the clinic to open for the day, a white pickup truck from the Humboldt Waste Management Authority was parked in our lot. Sure enough a few minutes later, an employee from the Eureka facility came though our door. She had a bat in a small cardboard box.

She said that someone had dropped off a bucket of used motor-oil soaked rags along with other hazardous waste from somewhere up in the hills east of the Bay. In that bucket there was also a Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus).

At first glance, the bat did not look good. He was completely covered in motor oil. We could barely detect his small, shallow breaths. We immediately placed him in our incubator, small box and all. Our incubator is kept ready 24/7 for exactly this reason. This patient needed heat and he needed it now, not when the thing was warmed up in a minute or five.

Soon he’d regained his composure, crawled from the box and was investigating the incubator. He was also trying to groom the oil from his fur with his tongue.

After he was sufficiently warmed and alert enough to be handled with less risk to his health, we prepared a quick bath for him to remove as much of the viscous motor oil as we could, before he licked more of it. Oil is bad for fur, bad for skin, and poison to eat.

During his post-bath examination he briefly escaped from our grasp and flew around the small examination room! This bat was ready to get it done.

He still had a bit of oil in his head, so a quick second bath was necessary. (photo at top of page is from his second bath)

The care board with the Big Brown Bat’s post-bath instructions.

After two days of rest, mealworms and regularly being misted to check his fur for cleanliness and function, that is, that he be clean of all oil and able to handle the actual world of rain and cold, we determined that he was ready for release.

This bat hated being misted. He hissed with rage!

A little damp but looking good!

While in care we tested the bat for parasites. He was negative – a perfectly healthy bat in a very bad situation!

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Prepared for travel to his release site.

We released him with ample time before sundown and provided a ready-made hiding place so that he was safe until he had his bearings.

We only had a rough approximation of where he was from initially. We took him back to the area where the bucket had come from, hoping we were relatively close. This is not ideal, but without a more precise location, it was the best we could do. What we do know is that he came very close to meeting his fate in the bottom of one of the most stupid and ordinary things in the world – a barrel of society’s petroleum waste.

Thanks to you this bat had a place to go when in a bad situation. Imagine the initial surprise the people at Humboldt Waste Management Authority felt when first discovering him in the bucket of oily rags. If not for you, they would have had no recourse. Everyday, your support makes that difference. Thank you!

all photos: Bird Ally X