Flying Mammals Visit Texas State

Photo by Susan Hanson

Photo by Susan Hanson

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Written by Mark Twain | Illustrated by Raymond Sheppard

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Written by Mark Twain | Illustrated by Raymond Sheppard

A few days ago, Dianne Odegard came to my Nature & the Quest for Meaning class to represent Bat Conversation International from batcon.org and present about bats and the many myths that surround them.

Diane began her presentation with an informative PowerPoint presentation. She showed an impressive amount of varieties of bats, with more in Texas, with 33 species, than anywhere else in the United States. The smallest kind of bat is the “bumblebee” bat and the largest is a “flying fox,” or fruit bat, with an impressive 7-foot wingspan.

That’s longer than I am tall!

She also showed bats in the media, including in literature such as Mark Twain’s biography illustrating Huck and Becky running from bats in the forest. She explained that Mark Twain had lived near a bat cave and was very fond of the animal so he incorporated it into his work.

She explained just about everything about bats including their reproduction. Bats are the slowest-reproducing mammals for their size and only give birth to about two or four pups at a time. Usually though, a bat will only have a single pup. Although bats will swarm together in caves, mothers only allow their own pup to feed from themselves and can recognize their pup from its distinct cry and smell.

Because of the long amount of time it takes a bat to have a single pup, it’s surprising that there’s so many of them!

After presenting the Powerpoint presentation, Diane asked us all to write bat haikus in groups of two. We partnered up and wrote some bat poetry. After we shared a few of our words aloud, she asked us to email them to our professor so that she could post them on the Bat Conversation International Website.

Finally, after she had given her presentation and the poems were read, it was time to actually see some bats! Diane put on a thick, denim jacket and yellow leather gloves to protect herself from the long claws of that bats and reached into a cat carrier that she had brought. She explained that she is one of the only, if not the only, bat rehabilitator in Texas and opens her home to bats in need. She brought two of her current bats to share with our class.

Photo by Susan Hanson

Photo by Susan Hanson

The first bat to come out was a large flying fox fruit bat named Zoe. I was excited to see the flying fox as they aren’t very scary looking and can actually look pretty cute. Diane expressed Zoe’s looks as similar to a chihuahua. I could see that. Zoe really was beautiful and had bright orange fur about her. I really wish that we could have pet the bats! Diane walked around the class allowing students to gaze closely at Zoe as she perched from her owner’s hands. As they came close to me, Zoe decided she needed a bathroom break and releaved herself on Diane’s shirt and the floor. I jumped back in surprise.

Photo by Susan Hanson

Photo by Susan Hanson

After walking about the class, Diane put Zoe into a display case with some fresh watermelon. Zoe was able to perch in full view of the class. She seemed to like it in the cage, though she seemed to prefer the attention of being held and walked around.

The final bat to make an appearance was Stubby the Mexican free-tail bat. Stubby was given his name for two reasons: he was found in a Stubb’s Barbecue restaurant and his free-tail was no more than a stubb. I think that’s pretty coincidental to find a stubby bat in a Stubb’s restaurant! In contrast to Zoe, Stubby was very small, smaller than a human hand. He was much harder to see because Diane’s fingers covered up most of him and he only weighed about the same amount as two quarters. Diane used Stubby to show us the structure of a bat wing and the bristles on bat feet that allow them to groom themselves. I didn’t like Stubby nearly as much as Zoe, but it was still cool to see.

After the bats were presented, class was over and I had to dash to my next class. I wanted to see the bats more up-close, but I had to run.

I wish I had brought my camera to class that day!

Thankfully, my professor, Susan Hanson had her camera, so I have some photos to show.