Going Batty About Wildlife

Hey there, Water Conservation Station readers. I am one of the new interns in the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office and I am excited to share my thoughts on water conservation with you guys. For my first blog, I would like to share a topic that is close to my heart: wildlife. More specifically, how drought can affect wildlife.

The western United States has been in a drought similar to the one we are facing in the south. However, they are facing a unique challenge: drowning bats. I know that sounds backwards. If they are in a drought, how can bats be drowning?

Here is some bat biology to help you understand how bats drown during droughts. Bats drink in flight by swooping down to the waters surface. In large lakes and ponds, this is done very easily for bats; however, these natural sources of water are starting to disappear.
So where do the bats turn? Livestock drinking stations.

Livestock drinking station

(photo courtesy of: Stanley Howe http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cattle_drinking_trough_-_geograph.org.uk_-_602555.jpg)

Livestock drinking stations are much smaller than lakes or ponds, and are surrounded by structures which make it difficult for bats to drink safely. As the water levels in these drinking stations go down, the bats can get stuck in the station. When they can’t get out and are tired of swimming, they often drown. To alleviate this problem, ranchers have installed “bat escape ramps” to help trapped bats escape.

Example of a bat escape ramp

(photo courtesy of: Kary Schlick http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/lwm/aem/news/climate_change_and_herpetofauna.html)

Just like the ranchers out west are helping the bats, we can help our Georgia wildlife. Two groups of wildlife that are closely tied to water are birds and frogs.

Birds need water to help cool off during the hot Georgia summers. Birdbaths are great for local birds. They provide a place for them to clean and cool off during the summer. Placing the birdbath near brush cover gives the birds a place to preen once they are done cooling off. But you have to make sure that no predator can sneak up on the bathing beauties. The lower the bath, the more open area is needed around the bath to ensure that the birds are safe from any stealthy predators. Also, baths need to be cleaned frequently to help prevent the spread of diseases among the birds. Clean with 1 part bleach to 9 parts water and make sure to wear rubber gloves.

Frogs need water to stay healthy. Like Nicole said a few weeks ago, frogs breathe through their skin, so keeping it moist is essential. Backyard ponds can be a great habitat for a wide variety of animals, including frogs, turtles, birds and lizards. Ponds can help these animals survive when water around the state is difficult to find. And who doesn’t want to look out into their backyard and see a turtle sunning itself by your pond?

To keep your baths and ponds full, you can collect rain water with rain barrels. Or, while you wait for your shower water to warm up, you can collect the cold water in a bucket and use it to refill the baths.

I’m looking forward to my time here at the Water Conservation Office! Talk to you again soon!


Water Conservation Intern

Originally posted on waterconservationstation.blogspot.com, 2/26/13


2 thoughts on “Going Batty About Wildlife

  1. Lauren, I love your article and I love knowing that you are out somewhere in the world helping to make the world a safer place for bats…and most importantly educating people about this topic and how they too can help bats.

    3 days ago I found a Mexican Free Tail in a dark corner of a pool of water – he was holding onto a branch for for dear life and he was completely submerged except his nose and mouth. I got my gloves (I rescue any nonhuman animal that I find in distress) pulled him out and dried him off. I put him in a small terrarium with mealworms, water, and cloths to hang by, then I wrapped the container in a heating pad. He got better, looked great and was cruisen’ around but I noticed during that night and the next day that he hadn’t eaten or drank. Since I can’t afford the preexposure rabies vaccine I couldn’t really handle him well enough with bulky gloves on to give him SQ fluids. The local wildlife rescue said that I shouldn’t have him and that they’d help him. So I brought him to them that night so be could get tube fed and fluids. The next afternoon I went back and they said that they put him into a bat box in the mammal ICU, but his paperwork showed that no one had been in to check on him since I had dropped him off. I asked to go back to see him and he was laying on the ground. So I demanded that they take him to triage…within minutes he drew his last breath right in front of me while I watched and was not allowed to pick him up or hold him. He was freezing cold and I started CPR (since he was dead what could they do – he wasn’t going to bite me). He didn’t come back. I took him home, I will have him cremated and given back to me to be burried with me and my pets that have passed. He was neglected there and he suffered there. If I had my pre-exposure rabies shots I would have never let him go anywhere. Everyone said well he was In the water for a reason he was probably sick and dieing already…now I know for sure that was not the case. When I read your article I immediately knew what had happened to him. He had been so sweet and silly…and he was so gentle. I feel so guilty and am filled with tremendous guilt and heartache. I love your article, thank you for educating me. I am going to find out where to get /or how to make the device mentioned in your article and then I will advertise and donate them to anyone in the world (I am friends on FB with lots of bat rescues and bat biologists). Thanks again Lauren – and good luck with everything you do.


    • What a heartbreaking story! That could not have been an easy experience to go through. Lauren is no longer working in our office (she graduated and is continuing to do wonderful work!), but I did forward your words to her. I think she will be touched by your story. I’ve recently been reading about how some scientists are FINALLY considering assigning emotions in animals, rather than stating everything is pure instinct and analyzing behavior strictly as an objective observer. Being one who believes all animals have emotions, I believe this little guy knew you were trying to help him and sensed your kindness. If we can believe he was in the water for a reason, we can believe you were in his life for a reason. Wishing you all the best.

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