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Winter weather driving us all batty

GAYS MILLS - Some of you fine readers may be lucky enough to escape the brutal cold here in Wisconsin, via vacation home or perhaps tropical vacation. Hopefully, if the latter is the case you won’t be like my friend Stephanie, who sends me either photos in her emails that show her on the beach or makes long complaints about another sunburn. Although she is my best friend, I found myself immediately replying, “never email me again” when the temperature reached “life threatening cold.” 

Per usual, I shouldn't complain much. I was fortunate enough to have a big stack of wood to burn. Tossing it in the stove after I got home from work, barely able to feel my fingers through my gloves, I could hardly believe I was sweating nearly to death at times stacking these same pieces. 

We were really spoiled having Thatcher in May. During my maternity leave with him, we could take him outside and lay him on a blanket in the shade and coo over him trying hard to focus on the fluttering leaves. Poor Waylon however hardly ever sees the light of day, unless it’s filtered by a window. Taking him outside it kind of feels like you’re undergoing a death-defying act. We bundle him up as much as the standards of a car seat allow, cover the top of his seat with the special wind blocker and then rush out the door at breakneck speed. Leaving poor Thatcher in the entryway squealing “waaaaait for meeeee!” as he is so bundled up he can hardly waddle. 

 All of the excitement of the cold at my house aside, I also had an interesting encounter at work. A brown bat, a ‘big brown bat’ to be exact was discovered on the sidewalk outside of the Fennimore Times office. A passerby casually popped their head in and informed us “ya got a bat out here!” My coworker passed the announcement on to me, forcing me to hop out of my chair with curiosity. Grabbing my coat and my camera I quickly went out the door to investigate. 

Sure enough, the poor thing was curled up like a fuzzy little baby in the snow. To make matters more pathetic, he was shivering away. I scampered back inside and we decided to call our county’s wildlife biologist. I’ve learned my time working at the Crawford County Independent, and doing so many animal stories, that when in doubt about an animal, call the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 

So I did just that, and moments later I received instructions to scoot the little feller into a shoebox and bring him inside and await further instruction. Although the Fennimore Times was once a shoe store, and I am told had hundreds upon hundreds of pairs of shoes in the box, in the basement, we are without such a box today. Luckily for the bat, the boxes our envelopes are shipped in from the printer work just fine. 

The little critter didn't put up much of a fight as I used the lid of the box to scoot him in. Safe, secure and warm, with plenty of holes for air I taped the box shut and hoped for the best. The wildlife biologist contacted a volunteer who transports distressed animals to the Dane County Humane Society’s wild life rehab center. She informed him if the bat survived the night, she would swoop in and take him to Madison. 

The nice warm box seemed to do the trick because the next morning when I picked it up, I could hear his faint scuttling about. He had survived and would indeed be on his way to his new home.  Once at the center the rehabilitator was kind enough to call and share information on the bat. 

He was a little thin and a little dehydrated, but over all appeared to be in good shape. They scanned him for the possible white nose syndrome, and he fortunately tested negative. The rehabilitator suspected that because the temperatures dropped so low, his hibernation was disturbed. Apparently this happens somewhat often to bats that live in urban areas. However, it seems to be typically because the area gets too warm, not too cold. Further more, it is suspected that the bat took off, looking for a warmer place to spend the rest of his big sleep only to fly out into subzero temperatures. Already depleted from his hibernation and with no buggy snack awaiting him, he fell from the sky, ending up on the sidewalk outside of the Fennimore Times. 

The story seems like it will have a happy ending, as the rehabilitator reported that the little feller was able to eat and drink and perked right up. He will spend the next 30 days in their warm bat room, being observed and quarantined, and then if he continues to do well, he’ll be transferred to the cold bat room where he can finish up his hibernation if he so choses. In the spring, when the bug population is nice and ripe, they will bring him back to Fennimore to be released, right outside of the Times office.