Little bats, little bats, how do you grow?

We know you all are missing Blogger Rachael very much, but in her absence we thought you could make do with a post about the orphans and what they've been up to!

Rehabber Kim hosted this lovely mom and her twins. That funny lump on mom's right (our left) side is a pup under her wing! Photo: Kim O'Keefe

We currently have 17 orphans at headquarters, with another 12 at our Fairfax outpost. Currently, they are all big brown bats, but pup season isn't over yet! In addition to orphans, we've had 6 pups born to mother bats who are with us for rehab.

A severely dehydrated big brown bat pup.
Photo: Leslie Sturges

Most bat pups come in extremely dehydrated, thin, and covered with mites. They are often only a few days old and very, very tiny. We have to get them hydrated quickly so they can be fed as soon as possible. Bat pups grow as quickly as songbirds, so just a few missed meals can cause metabolic problems such as bone density issues or organ failure.

Once we get them stabilized and eating well, they start on a three hour feeding schedule, and they get fed around the clock. In the wild, bat pups live under their mothers' wings and nurse all day long. When she leaves at night to go hunting, she'll come back as often as every 15 minutes to feed. Obviously, we can't do that, but we do try to keep them full!

Tooth bumps!!

After just a week or so, they grow fur and start getting their permanent canines. At this point we can see little 'tooth bumps' on their muzzles. They start stretching and flapping their wings and even start grooming themselves. We start offering them headless mealworms and make a pudding of ground up mealworms and formula. At this stage, they don't need to eat as often, so maybe we get some sleep.

Once they are eating pudding well, we teach them how to get it themselves from tiny bowls. Hopefully, they notice that they can also get their own mealworms, but that usually takes more teaching sessions. However, once one pup learns a new skill, the others quickly pick it up by watching.

How many pups can you spot??

We're happy to report that almost all the orphans are in 'pudding stage' and a couple have figured out mealworms. Next up: learning to fly!

And for more information about bats and bat rehabilitation, PLEASE check out the upcoming episode of Untamed, a collaboration between the Wildlife Center of Virginia and WVPT.

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