A Batty Adventure

On the 4th of July, we went over to our neighbor’s house for the traditional bar-b-que and potato salad. They then suggested we go over to Bull Shoals Dam in their boat and watch the fireworks display over the water.

I know, fireworks aren’t environmentally friendly, but seeing them over the water was something we had never experienced. Part of the whole experience of moving to Our Little House in a new area is to experience new adventures. Lack of jobs and money have prevented us from doing things for a few months and now we’re working so hard, time is an issue.

The boat ride was pretty rough, bass boats don’t do well traveling at fast speeds on waterways with a lot of traffic and once we reached the dam area, it looked like a floating city.

The fireworks, however, were spectacular. Seeing them over the water really was an experience.

We made our way through the crowded rough waters back to our sparsely populated side of the lake. The night was pitch black and Fred was still cruising at a pretty good speed when I saw a shadow fly across the deck and hit my life jacket and land in my lap.

My first thought was of the “flying” Asian carp that have invaded waters in the U.S.  I didn’t think they had invaded Bull Shoals Lake, I’ve written a couple of environmental pieces on them.  However, I knew it wasn’t wet when I brushed it off and it landed on Dale. It felt fuzzy, somewhat like a huge moth (and we have moths here the size of birds). I yelled that something had hit me, but Fred, our driver didn’t slow.

A few minutes later, Dale said he saw something moving on the floor and he out pulled his flashlight . At first I thought it to be a small brown toad as it was kind of hopping around, but then it expanded it’s wings. A bat.

Fred asked if he should stop?

Most definitely.

I don’t freak out easily – I usually tease our friends and family who visit that they need to toughen up when they’re here  – I shrug at spiders, make a wide path around snakes and hardly flinch at ticks.

But there’s something about a bat that is just, well, creepy.

I jumped and pulled my legs up. Maybe it was all of those stories of vampires I’ve read all of my life, but more than likely, it was the rumors I’ve heard of bats carrying deadly diseases such as rabies.

Rae asked if it had bitten either of us or scratched us – it really didn’t have a chance – it had hit my lifejacket and I had sleeves on. When I flicked it, I didn’t feel anything but it’s furry wing. When it landed on Dale, he simply moved his leg and it fell to the floor.

We were all just sitting there staring at it, trying to figure out how to get it out of the boat. While it looked stunned, it didn’t appear to be sick. When Dale pointed the light away, it suddenly it spread it’s wings and took flight and was gone.

Still a little nervous about our encounter, I began researching bats the next day.

Some advice on the Internet seemed to come from the hysterical end of the spectrum, practically advising anyone who has been in close quarters with a bat to begin rabies shots, no matter if they felt a bite or not.

However, I’m a journalist and look for the facts, which suggest that less than  one half of 1 percent of all bats in the U.S. carry rabies. The risk that either one of us sustained a bite while awake and not know it is probably less than zero. The risk of us being scratched and not know it a little higher, but neither of us had marks on our hands or the exposed part of my ankles. Even if we had been scratched, the chance of contracting anything is again almost nill.

At least the experience taught me something about more of the wildlife around Our Little House.

Would this experience have freaked you out?

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15 Responses

  1. S.A.B.L.E. says:

    Many years ago I was lucky to have spent a summer working at Carlsbad Caverns. Learning about the bats was really interesting as it was to give the big bat flight talks. Seeing them exit the cave was impressive, but returning before sunrise was really an amazing thing to experience.

    These days I enjoy seeing a few bats fly about the farm at dusk. I wish there were more of them to eat the bugs.

    Die Fledermaus is German for bat, which literally translates as flying mouse.

  2. Reader says:

    The Hawaiian hoary bat is Hawaii’s only native mammal also, and is endangered. Bats are our friends – they are invaluable for insect control. But I would have been washing for hours too!

  3. Frugal Kiwi says:

    I love bats. When I lived in Austin one of my favourite things was going to the Congress St bridge and watching the 1 million plus bats pour out from under the bridge in summer.

    I visited Brisbane, Australia last year and one of the highlights was going down the river on a ferry and seeing hundreds of HUGE (think 5 foot wing span) fruit bats taking to the skies. Amazing.

    And here in NZ? Our only native mammal? A species of bat.

    • Margo says:

      (Insert Happy Dance here!) I was tickled pink to see you, had already commented about the bat colony here in Austin. I’m not much for creepy or crawly things, but the show the bats put on is pretty amazing. And when I heard about how many insects they eat each night (10,000 to 30,000 pounds!), I gained a new appreciation for the little critters.

      But I think my reaction to a “personal encounter” would have been hysterics (for me) and hysterical (for those observing).

      Thanks Frugal Kiwi for mentioning the Austin bat colony, and thanks Kerri for the story. Great as always!

  4. Brian says:

    While a student at the U of A, I crawled through caves throughout the Ozarks almost weekly. Bats were a common and welcome site. We did our best to not disturb them (during the day they need to build up strength for feeding at night; and of course, in some caves we didn’t enter certain times of the year because of endangered species of bats) and found them absolutely fascinating. In all cases they reminded me of a cute mouse that had wings strapped on. Nothing sinister or creepy. None of us were ever bitten or scratched. In the evenings I still enjoy watching them swoop around lights, catching their evening meal.

    • I like caving too, Brian. The caves are closed right now due to the bats. I’ve seen them in caves all folded up and at a distance. That’s ok. Hitting me head on, not so much. 🙂

  5. Mary Brown says:

    Kerri,

    I would have been so grossed out. I probably would have pulled my shirt up to cover my head for the rest of the ride. Although I agree that we need them in the enviroment, I don’t want them too close to me.

    Had that bat landed in my lap and then I touched, I would have been in the shower scrubbing away and then probably would have had nightmares that night.

    • I have to admit that I went right home and washed my hands and arms about a half dozen times and immediately shed the clothes I was wearing. I love wildlife. We didn’t want to needlessly kill the little guy for any testing, but I sure could have done without him hitting me. Of course, he probably felt exactly the same. I bet he went home telling all the bats in the cave about his creepy encounter with humans who were on the lake in the dead of night! 🙂

  6. Kim says:

    I’ve been thinking about installing a bat house to encourage them to come live on our property! Each bat can eat up to 500-1000 mosquitoes an HOUR– and they really aren’t interested in interacting with humans, and usually don’t. Sounds like a good neighbor to me!

    (But would I squeal if one flew into me and I touched it? YES.)

    • I would love to have a bat house on the property, too, Kim. However, we have two caves on my aunt’s property across the road and I know the bats are around. I’ve seen their shadows flying over the deck at night.
      Yep, cute at a distance. Creepy when touched.

  7. I agree, Alexandra. Everything, no matter how creepy to us, has a place in the eco-system. Our bats are also experiencing the mysterious disease and the national and state park caves have been closed. A few of my neighbors theorize this is why we’ve had so many more mosquito problems this season.

  8. Alexandra says:

    I got freaked out by having bats fly out of a gable on our cottage at twilight once. Actually, we should be glad to have bats. They eat mosquitoes, I think, and other bugs. There is an epidemic in New England that is killing bats and scientists do not know the cause. They are necessary to us so we should treat them with more respect, don’t you think? (Love the little fuzzy flying guy above!)