Friday, March 5, 2010

Interview: Robert and Ann Walton

While researching to do the illustrations for the book, I got referrals to several people who had experience rehabilitating red bats. Since they do not do well in captivity and are not regularly in contact with humans, it took several phone calls to find Bob and Ann who had just rescued a whole red bat family!

They generously allowed me to visit their wonderful home in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and the bats in their care.

Bob does many school visits and community events to help people understand more about bats to help assuage the fears and misunderstandings around them.

1. Tell me a little about your background.

Bob is a retired electrical engineer. Served 4 years in Air Force (ours). Worked for Vanderbilt University, WLAC-TV in Nashville and IBM in Nashville while studying for a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree. Worked for Magnavox for 25 years on Government and Industrial products. Worked part time for Wild Birds Unlimited as a "Bird Feeding Specialist" for 10 years. From 1992 to present involved in raptor rehabilitation.

Ann is a retired Special Education teacher. She worked for a year in England with men with Down's Syndrome. She taught in the Nashville and Ft. Wayne school systems.

After raising 3 adopted special needs children (and a special needs husband) she worked for Wild Birds Unlimited for 13 years. She has been involved with raptor rehab since 1992.

2. How did you get involved in bat rescue?

One of the raptor rehabbers we worked with also rehabbed bats. She lived 30 miles away. I would take "rescued" bats to her since everyone else was scared silly.

She moved to Florida and left my name with Ft. Wayne Animal Control. First we took care of a few bats, then we suddenly became "bat experts" and were requested to make presentations. This lead to more bats needing rescue. After a year, I attended a week long course in Texas at Batworld.

3. What species of bat do you get the most calls about?

Mostly we receive Big Brown Bats.

4. Describe a typical rescue from capture until release.

Typically we receive our rescued bats from Animal Control. However, in some cases, the bat is in a location where Animal Control officers will not go. In these cases I will climb a ladder, crawl in an attic, etc. to retrieve the bat. The bat is placed in a "padded" container and taken to the "bat house". The bat is weighed, sexed, measured, rehydrated with a subcutaneous injection of Ringers Lactate, given a rabies shot, and then given age appropriate food (milk, blended mealworms or mealworms). The bat is then inspected for injuries and treated as required. Depending on the species, the bat is placed in safe enclosure to feed, rehabilitate, etc. Each bat receives daily care. When the bat is ready and the weather (and insect) conditions are good the bat is taken to the flight pen where it must demonstrate its flying ability over several days. If possible, the bat is then returned to area where it was "captured" and released.

5. What should someone do if they have a bat in their house or see an injured bat?

The best thing is DON'T PANIC. If the weather is good just open the doors or windows and let them out.

6. Have you ever come across a bat with the white-nose syndrome?


7. What other animals do you rescue?

I also rescue raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles and owls) for Soarin' Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation in Ft Wayne.

8. You do a lot of traveling and mentioned you recently were in Tanzania. Do many of your trips involve seeing animals in other countries? Do you have any plans for travel in the near future?

Almost all of our trips involve looking for birds and animals. We stay out of cities. We usually travel with "local" guides and learn about the culture.

Future trips will include: Colombia, Brazil and Indonesia.

9. Finally, if someone is interested in learning more about getting involved in rescuing bats, how would they get started?
Contact Batworld in Texas.


  1. I liked the healthy 'NO' when asked about that dreaded white nose disease. NY state got hit hard and Ontario's ecologists are very nervous about our next door neighbours!

  2. I just read an article about that.

    Very frightening...