A migrant mammal in our area

Published 1:51 am Monday, June 27, 2022

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By John Bunch

Virginia Master Naturalists

I live in the Sedley area, and while walking across the driveway on the late afternoon of April 29, a bat flew out in front of me from our weeping cherry tree. It landed nearby in the grass and was unable to get back up in flight. 

I knew that my dog would get at it if I didn’t leash him. After hooking him up I returned to the bat. From its large size and reddish-colored body, I was pretty sure that it was a red bat. I knew there was a bat disease that affects the little brown bat, so I was concerned that this bat could possibly be sick. I wanted to do what was right for this little guy.

I easily got the bat into a net, and for the bat’s safety from my dog, I placed it along the roof’s edge of my brown-shingled garage. I figured if it were alright and not sick that it would be quite camouflaged there. After completing that and then letting my dog off the leash, I contacted a Department of Conservation and Recreation wildlife biologist via text. He confirmed that indeed it was a red. He said that he’s seen red bats do this sort of thing before and that it was probably exhausted from its migration north. 

I didn’t know of the migration, so I looked it up. I learned that as winter approaches, these guys will migrate from northerly areas of the U.S. down farther south to overwinter and then return in the springtime.

I posted this encounter on the Virginia Wildlife Facebook site so I could share it with others. The comments I received told me that my sighting was not the first of this season and that other folks had seen this occur as well. Those in the know commented that these migrating bats can be exhausted and almost starving from their lengthy migratory flights, and it’s best to leave them alone if found. Also, as this has been a long, chilly spring, there’s probably a lack of insects to feed them as they make their way north. I was told that once they get some rest and regain their strength, they should be able to launch off the ground. So for us as observers, while they are recuperating, we should make sure that our dogs and cats can’t get to them until they rest to regain their flight.