Barry, “but I know that this bat remembers me. It was clearly
evident when she came out of hibernation with all of her cro-
nies, who would all attack the mealworms with a quick snap.
Izzy, however, would gently pick the mealworm off the tweezers
and then gobble it down.”
She is the cutest bat I’ve ever seen, but then again, I’ve never
really seen the beauty in bats until now. I met my first bat after
being awakened by my screaming wife in the middle of the
night, right before I frantically tried to redirect it out our bed-
room window with a tennis racket.
Thanks to people like Barry and Mo, persistent petrified
attitudes toward bats are changing. Every interaction they have
with someone is a teachable moment about bats and disease.
It’s early June, and the little brown bat is recovering well.
Weight is up and the wing deterioration is healing. Other experts
Genzlinger knows are surprised. Barry and Mo are thrilled. No
one really cared about a dead bat before white-nose syndrome,
but now, with five of Vermont’s nine bat species either endangered or threatened, every bat seems to make a difference. The
little brown, once the most abundant bat in the U.S., has been
reduced to 20 percent of its original population. Little browns
typically have one pup per year, but one female could easily
have 10 in a lifetime. If half of those pups are females, and each
female has 10 pups, you can see how one rescued bat could
make a significant contribution to the local population.
Alyssa Bennett, a bat biologist with the Vermont Department
of Fish and Wildlife, first suggested that Genzlinger take a baby
big brown bat home and try to raise it. The Department had
been working with him for some time, using his bat houses for
state projects, so having someone who understood bats try their
hand at rehab seemed logical. That bat was successfully released
– the first of many.
“I thought it would be a good idea to practice rehabilitation
on big browns,” Genzlinger says. “Makes sense; they are abun-
dant. Make the mistakes on the bats that are plentiful.”
He isn’t making many mistakes. So far, Genzlinger has taken
in 82 bats and successfully released 53. Those that did not sur-
vive were either severely injured or too small, weighing less than
By late June, Izzy apparently had left for good. Barry and Mo
saw her chasing other bats. It was time. The little brown with
IRIS was released with lots of energy and healthy wings, hopeful
signs for other bat rehabbers.
Still, there were more arrivals. Six of the Genzlingers’ nine
new pups had fallen out of a local bat house that was overcrowded. In a house designed for 15 to 20 bats, half the house
was filled with paper wasp’s nests and the other half held 20
adult females with pups.
As rehabilitators licensed by the State of Vermont Department
of Fish and Wildlife and Agency of Natural Resources, Barry
and Mo are qualified to do more than just feed and handle
bats. They are bat doctors and, with help from veterinarians,
can perform just about any procedure on a bat that could be
performed on a human. So far, a necropsy to diagnose a dead
bat’s bladder infection has been Genzlinger’s most complicated
Libraries are filled with books on how to care for human
maladies, but for bat rehabilitators, there is only one: Captive
Care and Medical Reference for the Rehabilitation of Insectivorous
Bats, by Amanda Lollar and Barbara Schmidt-French. You
name it, this book has it: how to anesthetize, treat shock, and do
a general diagnosis; or treat bite wounds, pesticide poisoning,
urinary tract infections, or diarrhea. There are procedures for
treating fractures, blunt force trauma, pneumonia, and even for
conducting amputations, though in most cases, euthanizing is
the humane thing to do if a bat is not releasable. While this book
is the bible for bat rehabilitation, the Genzlingers are adding to
this body of knowledge daily.
They didn’t say so, but I’m guessing Barry and Mo can
imagine a day when they will have interns – not only to help
feed and care for the bats, but to do some rescues as well. In
October 2015, the Genzlingers formed the Vermont Bat Center,
a 501(c)( 3), and can now accept tax-deductible donations to
support their rehab and educational work. They can be reached
As of March 3, 2016, the Genzlingers have 16 bats in their
facility. “The big news,” said Barry, “is that four of those are
endangered little browns and three are critically endangered
northern long-eared bats – all found clinging to the rocks out-
side their hibernation cave. They most certainly would have
died if they had not been found by Vermont Fish and Wildlife
Mark Paul teaches biology and environmental science at Essex High School and lives
in Starksboro, Vermont.