Becoming a Carer
Thinking of becoming a Bat Carer?
Some carers join us after caring for other animals and most will agree that once you go bat, you’ll never go back. Bats are incredibly intelligent, affectionate and ecologically important, and it’s a constant pleasure and privilege to share our lives with them.
- The good bits
- The not-so-good bits
- Why should we save bats?
- Are bats aggressive?
- Are bats affectionate?
- Do bats smell?
- Can I work and be a carer?
- Can I keep other pets?
- Do I need experience or qualifications?
- What if I have young children or live with un-vaccinated housemates?
- I live in a unit/apartment – can I still care for bats?
Saving lives by rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing a healthy wild bat is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Rearing an orphan baby who thinks you’re the most wonderful person in the world and wants to spend all day hugging you is pretty nice too.
Bats cope well with being hand reared, and with being rehabbed and released. They are intensely social and tend to get along very well, even with other species of bat. They won’t kill or banish a new comer like birds and possums will.
You don’t need much space. Microbats can be rescued and rehabbed in a bird cage, baby flying foxes can be reared in a bedroom, while adult flying foxes can be rescued in a cat cage and taken to one of Bats Qld’s large aviaries if long term care is required.
Vaccinations: An estimated 1% or so of wild bats have Australian Bat Lyssavirus, a form of rabies. This disease is incurable so you must be vaccinated against it if you wish to handle bats. You will require a course of three rabies vaccines over a month. These feel just like a flu shot, but the government won’t fund them so cost about $70 each (total $210 – less if you have private health insurance.)
After that you probably won’t need a booster for many years, but we test our blood every year or so to ensure our immunity is still high. A bonus is this vaccine also protects you when you travel to areas where rabies occurs such as Europe, USA, Canada, Africa and Asia.
Non vaccinated people must not handle bats. EVER. Qld Health demands we euthanise bats that have caused a skin-penetrating wound on a human (ie. bite or scratch) and have it tested for Lyssavirus. It practically always comes back negative, but by then it’s too late for the bat!
Bats exist to create forests by spreading seed and pollen over a long distance – much further than a bee. When a bat poops or spits fruit pips on your car or washing it’s nothing personal – it’s just doing its job which is to spread seed to replant trees. The difference is your car wasn’t there 50 million years ago when bats starting doing this job in Australia.
No, but they are defensive. Bats avoid human contact wherever possible but if you attempt to rescue a terrified, injured bat that is in pain it will do anything it can to escape and you will be scratched or bitten. They are naturally gentle, and smart enough to figure out when you’re not going to eat them so usually calm down after a day or so in care. If a bat exhibits extreme, unprovoked aggression it may be ill.
Bats are some of the world’s most devoted mothers, hugging the baby to them for six long weeks after it is born. Babies bond intensely to their carer and even injured adults usually like massage, rubs and scratches after a few days in care.
Babies don’t. Adult male bats have a strong musky odour during the breeding season. It’s their way of saying “here I am, ladies”.
Almost all carers also juggle jobs and families. Adult microbats and flying foxes are easy for working people as they sleep all day and only require one evening feed. Baby orphans require a lunchtime milk feed so you’ll either need to come home at lunchtime if you live close to work, or have a very understanding boss who’ll allow you to keep a baby in a cat cage under your desk. We also need ‘weekend warriors’ to give our full-time carers a break – You can do rescues after hours or weekends, or babysit.
Almost all carers have a menagerie of other animals. If you have dogs and cats you must use the same common sense you would use with a human baby – supervise at all times and never leave a dog or cat alone with your bat. Most carers keep their bats in a locked aviary, or a spare room with a secure closed door to keep other animals out.
No – we’ll train you. Bat rescuers include scientists, engineers, builders, teachers, journalists, secretaries and retirees. We provide ongoing training and support, and you’ll learn a huge range of portable skills in animal care and rehab.
No problem. Some carers choose to vaccinate their children, while others perform rescues then drop the bat straight at a vet or rehab facility so they don’t ever need to a bat home with them.
Sure – you can raise babies, rescue and transport adult flying foxes to a rehab facility or care for microbats in an average-size birdcage.