Friday | April 24, 2015
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Endangered Hawaiian hoary bat rescued, rehabilitated

Roughly two weeks ago, an endangered Hawaiian hoary bat was found tangled on a car antenna in Holualoa. Three Ring Ranch co-owner Ann Goody said the soft membrane of the bat’s wing was wrapped and knotted like “a flesh pretzel.”

The wire-wrapped antenna had somehow snagged the membrane, twisting it into a tight crimp, but the fragile finger bones were not broken, she added.

Rescuers at Three Ring Ranch worked nine days treating the mature male bat, as well as allowing enough rest and recuperation for it to mend the torn wing by itself. The bat was successfully released Saturday where it had been found, near K Komo Store.

“It’s through the cooperation of all agencies and the education of our residents this wonderful creature got the care it needed and was released back into the wild,” Goody said.

A Good Samaritan had found the bat in the early morning hours of Aug. 22. Not knowing who to call, the man told his aunt who that afternoon notified Three Ring Ranch, a 5-acre nonprofit exotic animal sanctuary in Kailua-Kona that holds state and federal wildlife permits for rehabilitation and possession of raptors and endangered species. She knew about Three Ring Ranch because one of her daughters attended an educational program at the sanctuary, Goody said.

When Goody arrived, she found a severely dehydrated and emaciated bat with a strong heart rate.

“Thankfully, the bat was still alive,” she said. “Since bats are so delicate, when one is found in trouble by humans, it is usually too late and the bat arrives at our facility either dead or in the final stages of dying.”

Because of their fragility, bats often do not survive the time between rescue and rehabilitation. Three Ring Ranch is aware of the precarious situation. Still it usually treats three bats a year, knowing only 50 percent will recover from their injuries and be released into the wild, Goody said.

The bats, typically found on the ground or floating in water, were injured in various ways, including being struck by cars, suffering or dead from a collision, attacked by cats and blown out of trees by high winds. Other possible threats are habitat loss, pesticides, predation and roost disturbance. However, most bats Three Ring Ranch has cared for over the years were young, not good at flying and not good at navigating — or orphaned, Goody said.

Recovery can take several days to months, depending upon the severity of injury, she added.

The Hawaiian hoary bat, or opeapea, is Hawaii’s only native terrestrial mammal. While there are ongoing studies about them, little is known about this species, Goody said.

On Hawaii Island, these bats have been found from sea level to the 7,500-foot elevation, however, they have also been observed near the summits. They’re opportunistic, foraging on a variety of insects and in several different types of habitats, including over brackish water and open ocean, she said.

Three Ring Ranch immediately began intensive care on the injured adult bat, which weighed just 11.5 grams. It was fed hourly drops of warmed Pedialyte and mealworm innards. The bat later began eating moths that volunteers collected with butterfly nets and was fed every two hours during the daytime, basically nine times daily. Gradually, it reached a normal weight of 13.5 grams, Goody said.

During its stay, the bat was kept in a special heated box lined with fine window screen material, which prevented any further injury and allowed it to roost naturally. Its wing slowly returned to normal shape, with only a tiny tear, approximately 1.5 millimeters long, in the membrane near the ankle that did not affect flight — which was tested before Saturday’s release.

The bat flew from Goody’s hand and circled a 16-foot by 22-foot room filled with flying insects, enjoying the buggy buffet.

Watching the bat capture prey and feed flying, as well as land, take off and maneuver with ease, were clear indicators it was ready to return to the wild, Goody said.

Holding it any longer would have only increased its risk for muscle loss and habituation to its mealworm and field bug diet, she added.

Goody said this bat was the grumpiest one she ever dealt with, and she’s come across many. Nevertheless reintroducing this bat was rewarding Saturday, she said.

Call 331-8778 for more information about the Three Ring Ranch or to report an injured, sick or orphaned wild animal.