By MacKenzie Hall, Private Lands Biologist
Jackie Kashmer is a bat-saving machine. Surely, no mere mortal is fit for the long, painstaking hours she spends to make the tiny animals well again. But then, no machine could do it with the grace or heart. Let me introduce you to the New Jersey Bat Sanctuary.
For six years, Jackie has focused her wildlife rehabilitation practice on bats alone – a decision that’s given her a special understanding of what makes bats tick. And since all of her patients have similar basic needs, she can provide for them in a consistent and well-oiled way.
Inside the Bat Sanctuary are dark, warm rooms lined with nylon enclosures. The enclosures have a maternal touch, with patterned cloth drapes, cushiony hand-sewn pouches, and little hollowed logs – all for the bats to nuzzle in and feel safe. If you stand there with the lights on, the cages look still and empty, their furry occupants tucked away in the unlit spaces. You hear an occasional chirpy “pz-pz-pzzz.”
But it’s not all darkness and calm. White-nose Syndrome has changed the pace at the New Jersey Bat Sanctuary. Last winter, Morris County’s Hibernia Mine was down to fewer than 800 little brown bats (from roughly 27,000 three years ago). By late February, some bats were moving to the precarious “freeze zone” near the mouth of the cave – a sign that the White-nose fungus was taking hold. Not wanting to see any more bats die, Mick Valent (NJ Fish and Wildlife) called Jackie about helping the bats at Hibernia. Jackie said, “Bring me a hundred. If I can handle a hundred, then I’ll take more.” A couple weeks later she was boarding and feeding around 125 bats from Hibernia Mine – everyone from the freeze zone. (more…)