Two weeks ago, upon arriving at Prairie Pond Woods with a friend, there she was, pacing in circles on the front porch, bashing the side of her head onto any hard surface that was near. The proverbial black cat, crossing my path with high-stepping white paws, welcomed us as if we were her long-time owners. “Nice to see you. Now, come pet me,” I anthropomorphically imagined it saying. Yesterday, I returned for a few days and guess who greeted me on the steps?
But all good things must come to an end. Roommates part and go separate ways. In order to save the birds that would soon be migrating through from thousands of miles south to thousands of miles north, and to leave enough meadow voles to feed the local hawks, fox and coyotes, she got crated and taken to the “adoption agency.” The sacrifice of one for the many.
Some people will think this cruel and heartless (especially since the animal control officer told me that most people don’t like to adopt black cats out of dark-age superstition). But a conservative estimate shows that one breeding female cat can have 100 kittens over the course of a 7-year life “on the streets.” This is the real tragedy because out of that one comes countless deaths and horrible suffering, as feral cats are wounded, diseased, and set on a course of killing all day, everyday just to survive. It seemed a reasonable option.
Now the bat…I let live…twice. But I think most people would have bashed it to death upon finding it in their basement the first time, let alone the second. It had obviously made itself at home, as well, literally. Aside from sparing it for its ingenuity in finding the way back in, I let it go because it is a key species in controlling mosquitoes and other bugs in the summer. In contrast to the fecundity of one feral cat, one bat consumes approximately 600 mosquitoes in just an hour.
The first time it was easy to catch. I just covered it with the small wastebasket and slid a clipboard underneath…the way most people would capture a bug on a wall. I knew it would not be difficult because in winter bats enter a state called topor, which is much like hibernation. In this state, their breathing and heart rate slow down, and it leaves them rather groggy when disturbed, if not vulnerable.
But the second time proved a little more dramatic. It was hanging in the corner of the room, no way to cover it without leaving a way to escape. And as willing as I was to do this…I still wasn’t up for having a ticked-off bat flying around the room. So I got out the broom and gently tapped it several times in hopes to knock it down and then cover it.
Talk about your good horror film footage!
The first time, I just set the basket on the side porch, kicked off the clipboard, and shut the door in virtually one motion. The second time, I thought it would be a bit more compassionate to drop it off in the barn, with hopes it might take up residence there. It also clung to the same basket and slept, seemingly peacefully, while I messed around in the barn. By the next day it was gone.
Final Score: Stray Bats: 1, Stray Cats: 0 (or maybe not)