You could say members of Colorado BatCREW are batty — in a good way — about the winged creatures. The group of licensed wildlife rehabilitators and educators across Colorado are on a mission to …
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If you find a bat, directions on what to do can be found at www.coloradobatcrew.com/foundabat.html.
If you find an injured or sick bat, have bat questions or are interested in volunteering, call BatCREW's toll free number at 866-909-2287.
You could say members of Colorado BatCREW are batty — in a good way — about the winged creatures.
The group of licensed wildlife rehabilitators and educators across Colorado are on a mission to help bats when they are injured, sick or lost and need a helping human hand. In fact, CREW stands for conservation, rescue/rehabilitation, education and welfare.
Colorado BatCREW is headquartered in the home of Conifer’s Kathy Estes. She started the nonprofit organization in 2010, and figures the dozen volunteers get four to six calls a day about bats in the summer and about one a week in winter.
“The majority of people in BatCREW are doing transportation and taking calls and giving advice and giving education programs,” Estes said. “There are a lot of different aspects of these animals that people don’t understand. We are trying to change that.”
Colorado BatCREW just received a $2,000 grant from Colorado Parks & Wildlife for flight cages and equipment to keep bats during the winter.
Jim Guthrie, who oversees the grant program, says he is happy CPW can help groups like BatCREW because rehabilitating animals is a labor of love.
“To have rehabilitators in the area to do the work to save animals is so valuable,” he said.
Tina Jackson, a wildlife biologist with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, added: “Wildlife rehabbers provide so many amazing services for us. Bats are impacted by lots of things — that goes for a lot of wildlife species — and rehabbers help with all of those situations.”
Sometimes young bats fall as they learn to fly, sometimes they are injured by cats or wild animals, and other times, as they try to catch insects, they get trapped on sticky insect traps. Some are susceptible to fungi or get sick.
“They are spectacular when we get an issue (with a bat),” she said of the BatCREW rehabbers. “They always jump right on it.”
Becoming bat crazy
BatCREW members came to the organization by different routes.
Estes has been a wildlife rehabilitator for decades, and she burned out on helping other animals, so she decided to specialize in bats.
“Clearly, we don’t have enough people to (rehab) bats,” she said.
Sachiko Boland of Highlands Ranch worked at the Renaissance Festival in Larkspur, and one day she found a bat on her big fluffy skirt.
“He crawled into my hand, and we look into each other’s eyes. I thought, `You are the cutest thing in the world.’ And I was in love head over heels.”
Years later, Boland was interested in joining BatCREW, and she says Estes took her under her wing “and she never let me go.” Boland spent several years as a licensed rehabilitator but is now doing more education work for the organization.
Becca Greer of Larkspur first got into bats when she was studying abroad in Australia, which is known for its large bats. Years later, she decided to get involved with BatCREW. While she is not a licensed rehabilitator, she helps with the organization’s administration and works on education programs.
The rehabilitators say bats are an important part of the ecosystem, helping to tame the insect population. The more people understand their role, the more the bats will be left alone.
Some bats do carry rabies, which is why licensed rehabilitators have taken pre-rabies shots, and no one should ever touch a bat with bare hands.
“We’re doing a lot of work with helping with the conservation of the animals,” Estes said, including studying which species migrate and which hibernate and more.
Boland talks about rescuing a bat from a glue insect trap. She used mineral oil to get the bat unstuck from the trap and Dawn dish soap to clean it off. The bat needed antibiotics and physical therapy so it could fly again.
Estes says she has rescued bat pups from the inside of houses, bats that have fallen into swimming pools and bats that have fallen to the ground.
“We spend a lot of time working with the finders to talk through the situation and how they might facilitate helping the bat,” Estes said.
Sometimes people who find the bat can take care of the situation on their own, while other times, the bat must be picked up and transported to a rehabber’s facility for more extensive help.
Educating the public about bats is a major goal for BatCREW.
Boland has seen families want to keep bats as pets, and she educated them on why that is not a good idea.
“It was a good learning experience for the family,” Boland said. “They can pass the information along to friends and family.”
BatCREW members give presentations to school groups, explaining the benefits of bats and how people shouldn’t be afraid of them.
“There are a lot of happy stories with bats when kids find them,” Estes said. “I have handouts, brochures and fun packets for the kids to draw pictures. Often times, I trade a plush bat toy for the (real) bat the child has found.”
Bats are so vital to the environment that it’s important to educate the public to take care of them, the rehabbers said.
“The majority of the calls we get are happy endings,” Estes said. “Some people want to know more about the bats, and they know it’s better that (the bat) flew away and led a happy life.”
Boland said more people are volunteering to help bats.
“People who love bats are unique,” she said. “It’s important for people to understand why we need them here.”
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