Now that summer has arrived, the silhouettes of fluttering bats can be glimpsed in the cool, evening skies of Western Washington. They’re a welcome sight to anyone who dislikes being bitten by mosquitoes or other flying insects. Bats are known to feast on these pesky flyers, so during the cold, winter months, some bats migrate to warmer climates where these insects are still plentiful. Some remain to hibernate in caves, mines, attics, tree hollows or any other shelter from the weather.
In hibernation, a bat’s metabolism is slowed to a crawl. His body temperature drops dramatically, as does his heartbeat and respiration. This allows the bat to survive five months or more on nothing but stored body fat. If the bat is awakened, however, it will begin burning precious fat reserves. Just one disturbance could cost the bat its life.
In December, a Big Brown Bat was brought to PAWS after he was found clinging to the outside wall of a bar in Seattle’s University District. The bat was groggy, but he didn’t appear to be ill or injured. If released immediately, the bat would likely have starved. Instead, we housed the bat here at PAWS for the winter. For months, he feasted on mealworms, even gaining a little weight while his hibernating kin were doing just the opposite.
When warmer weather and flying insects returned in May, we released him into the night sky, wishing him a long slumber come next winter.
A disrupted hibernation means a visit to PAWS for this winged creature.