Watching His Little Feet Going All Over Her Head
The family reunion went as planned and all seemed to have a good time. A lot of people came from all over the world. There were some that we had only met through letters and phone calls. This was going to be a week of partying.
On the last night of the reunion, everyone was tired out and returning to their respective places where they would sleep for the last time. A couple of cousins were staying at our place where I still lived with my sister and parents. After our parents went to bed, the four of us had decided to sit outside on the deck as we felt it was too early for us to retire. After all, it was only one in the morning.
It was a beautiful night. The moon was full, there was a nice breeze and the stars were all shining brightly. You couldn't ask for a nicer night on the prairies.
We were sitting quietly enjoying a peaceful night and discussing the past few days of our reunion. We kept seeing what we thought was some kind of night bird fluttering around the trees. Thinking they may be owls, I decided to go and get the binoculars so we could have a better look.
As I was returning to the deck after getting them I heard screaming coming from the deck. As I got to the door to the deck, all I could make out between the screams were the words "its attacking me, its attacking me!"
Cousins Diane and Laura were jumping up and down while Jennifer was swatting at the top of her head in hysterics. Laura yelled at Jennifer "what the hell is that?" Jennifer screamed back that she didn't know what it was, only that she was being attacked and bitten by something with wings. All I could see was something dancing with his little feet all over her head and his wings opening and closing, opening and closing. It was very freaky.
Diane yelled out that it was a bat. It was silvery white from the light glistening on it, and it had a wing span of nearly one foot. Diane then started to swat at it and Jennifer finally felt it let go of her hair and fly away. They all stood in amazement as it flew up over the house across the street and was gone.
Laura was concerned about the behaviour of the bat. She didn't feel it was normal for a bat to attack a human being and insisted that Jennifer get treatment as soon as she could.
The next day they took Jennifer to the doctor. He found scratches but did not know if there were any bites as he said the bats pin-like teeth doesn't leave much of a trace. It was suggested she get rabies shots.
Despite what she went through, Jennifer said the benefits of having bats around far outweigh the unlikely risk of an attack. She actually felt sorry for the bat as she thought it might be sick or injured from her swatting at it.
Laura, Diane and Jennifer all left town the following day. Jennifer did not have any serious injuries from her encounter with the bat.
At this point I decided I would like to learn even more about the bats that are common in our province. I spoke to the city environmental officer and he told me that we do not have many problems with the bats here except they do get into buildings at times. Some people even have bat houses on the sides of their trees or old buildings.
Eight bat species call Saskatchewan their home. The big brown bat is a common here with a wingspan of 30 cm and a body 15 cm tall. If it were catching only mosquitoes, it would eat nearly 600 in an hour. Which is a good thing to happen. This is the type of bat they figured that attached itself to my cousins' hair.
Many of the other insects bats eat are considered agricultural pests. Without insect-eating bats, there would be more crop losses and a need to increase pesticide use.
I interviewed our medical health officer the next spring. He said that bat attacks are a rare occurrence, but there are other ways people may have a brush with a bat.
"There are at least two or three cases per summer season of someone who comes into contact with a bat. Usually it's someone who sees a bat flopping around on the ground in the back yard and they will pick it up because its interesting. That's not a good idea," he stated.
Bats can be rabies carriers and the virus is transmitted through its saliva or scratches. "There have been positive (rabies) reports in our district from year to year from all types of bats," said the doctor. Bats discovered inside a home can be cause for concern even if people don't report having contact with it.
"One of the problems is if it is found in your sleeping quarters and one is fairly certain that its been there for a period of time, you may not realize you have been bitten. The bite marks are small and probably invisible," he explained. He said ideally the bat should be taken away and tested for rabies. If the bat cant be located, a person in that situation may want to consider getting a rabies vaccine.
Though rare, rabies can manifest itself in two to three weeks or as long as a year after exposure, so its important to consider a rabies vaccine after an animal bite, whether or not symptoms are showing.
The symptoms can range from muscle spasms to odd behaviour, but usually include a fear of water, or hydrophobia, which results from a difficulty in swallowing. Once the symptoms arise it can be a very difficult disease to treat.
Bats have a very good sight and radar and an accidental brush is nearly impossible outdoors.
If you go into a barn or a shed, there may be the odd bat quietly roosting there. People have this thing about killing bats at all cost, but its best to just leave them alone.
Some common bat myths:
Here are plans to build a bat house if you are interested.
- Bats are blind: No, bats have excellent sight especially at night.
- Bats are flying mice: Bats are not rodents and are more closely related to primates and humans. Also, mice cant fly.
- Bats are dirty and carry rabies: No, they are very clean, grooming themselves like cats. They can get rabies as all mammels can.
- Bats are not the only mammal that can fly: Yes, they are the only mammal that can fly. Some can even hover like hummingbirds.
- Bats are worthless: Far from it. They help control insect population and help pollinate plants. They have also taught us about sonar.
- Bats like to bite necks and suck blood: No, only one species drink blood. The Vampire bat in Central and South America like the blood of cattle and birds. These animals are not normally killed by the bats.
Yes, the prairies have bats flying in the night sky.