There is a colony of bats that live in the eaves of our front porch, close to the front door. They have lived there for three or four years and we enjoy looking up into the eaves and seeing a line of little furry bodies dozing in the afternoons. We have little tiny bats, small brown bats to be precise. They eat insects from the garden, preferring potato bugs and scorpions; leaving bits of legs and bodies scattered on the ground outside our bedroom. Sometimes in the evening I hear them squeaking as they fly off in search of dinner but generally they are quiet. The bats take up residence in the eaves during the mid-afternoon. I'm not sure where they hang out in the morning and I've never seen them arrive so maybe they are up inside the eaves where they can't be seen.
Yesterday, Camille noticed three baby bats on the ground. They were small, hairless, eyes still closed and dead. We have never found dead bats before. I googled dead brown bats and found a link to the US Geological Survey who is tracking the spread of white nose syndrome in little brown bats. The syndrome (a fungus) affects adult bats coming out of hibernation, primarily in the Northeastern US. This didn't fit the description of what we found but I sent an email off to the biologist there anyway, and included some pictures. I didn't expect to get much of a response, if any.
To give you an idea of how tiny these little pups are, this one is resting on top of a brick on the front walkway next to the front door sill. Poor little thing.
This morning, I had a long email from the biologist. She said it was not white nose syndrome, that she hadn't heard of any other cases like this in California, and could she give my phone number to the biologist with the California Dept of Fish and Game in case they wanted to follow up. Of course.
In the meantime, Camille found another one who fell from the eaves in the morning and crept slowly, crawling along the bricks, until it found itself against the sill a bit further down from the one in the picture. It squeezed itself into the corner, upside down, in a pathetic attempt to hang. It squeeked faintly a few times and then was silent. We monitored it all afternoon and at nightfall it was, amazingly, still alive.
Mid-afternoon, I received a call from the Dept of Fish and Game. They were very interested in our bat situation. We ruled out a temperature spike or other obvious cause. Sometimes, a colony will lose pups due to dehydration or lack of food. Regardless of the cause, it isn't a good thing. Bats only have one pup a year so a loss of multiple pups isn't good. I was on the phone and watching the email exchanges between the two departments the rest of the afternoon. I am impressed. These two ladies care about my little brown bats. They want to research and see what is going on. If I can collect three to five freshly dead bats, I will send them into the government lab. The trick will be getting them fresh -- these little pups are so small that they shrivel up into nothing within hours of dying.
I hope we don't find anymore dead bat pups but if we do, I know what to do.