animal kingdom / from Mary

Lasiurus borealis

A post from Mary:

Little known fact about me: I used to have an elaborate dead animal collection. Mostly birds. It was part of my dowry, and the frozen brown paper bag traveled from the homestead to the rental home when we married. I had collected it over the years, often finding perfectly intact specimens on the bridge at the end of our farm lane, most likely traveling the freeway of the stream and getting hit by cars as they flew over the bridge. I would identify them and tag them with the date and where and how I came to have them in my possession. Then in the freezer, in the brown sack they'd go. A budding naturalist. Maybe a slightly unusual collectible. But, when we moved to our home, I decided to toss them. Some of them were pushing a decade of age. It was time.

I give you that background information about me so you are not shocked when you read ahead…

It is a nice day. I go for a jog. I find a perfectly wonderful dead bat on the road. I must bring it home. I am only about one mile from home. My hands are sweaty, but I can carry it. The kids just must see this fellow.

Bats tend to evoke scary thoughts and images. But have you ever really seen one? They are incredibly intricate, beautifully made little flying teddy bears. I don't think I know a softer fur. Tiny little faces with little snouts and pricked ears. Silky, but super tough wings.

So we got out the field guide. I knew what kind it was, but I wanted my gang to go through the steps and figure it out. We examined, measured, mapped. A male Red Bat. Lasiurus borealis.

And when we were done, guess where he ended up? Bagged, and in the freezer. Maybe the beginnings of the next generation of dead animal collections.

A post from Mary:

Little known fact about me: I used to have an elaborate dead animal collection. Mostly birds. It was part of my dowry, and the frozen brown paper bag traveled from the homestead to the rental home when we married. I had collected it over the years, often finding perfectly intact specimens on the bridge at the end of our farm lane, most likely traveling the freeway of the stream and getting hit by cars as they flew over the bridge. I would identify them and tag them with the date and where and how I came to have them in my possession. Then in the freezer, in the brown sack they'd go. A budding naturalist. Maybe a slightly unusual collectible. But, when we moved to our home, I decided to toss them. Some of them were pushing a decade of age. It was time.

I give you that background information about me so you are not shocked when you read ahead…

It is a nice day. I go for a jog. I find a perfectly wonderful dead bat on the road. I must bring it home. I am only about one mile from home. My hands are sweaty, but I can carry it. The kids just must see this fellow.

Bats tend to evoke scary thoughts and images. But have you ever really seen one? They are incredibly intricate, beautifully made little flying teddy bears. I don't think I know a softer fur. Tiny little faces with little snouts and pricked ears. Silky, but super tough wings.

So we got out the field guide. I knew what kind it was, but I wanted my gang to go through the steps and figure it out. We examined, measured, mapped. A male Red Bat. Lasiurus borealis.

And when we were done, guess where he ended up? Bagged, and in the freezer. Maybe the beginnings of the next generation of dead animal collections.

12 comments on “Lasiurus borealis”

  1. I love this! I didn’t know you could just stick a dead animal in the freezer to preserve it but I guess that makes sense. Do you have to do anything to them or can you just stick them in a zip lock bag and periodically pull them out for inspection?

  2. I had a jeweler friend who used to collect dead birds and then take molds and cast them in metal. It always seemed a little grotesque, but the finished work was so interesting.

  3. ooooh, i love you! we do this all the time…. having moved houses with birds in the freezer! now, even more interesting to me b/c our kids are so fascinated by this!! question: even kept the bones of an animal? know of a way to preserve the bones of, say, a larger animal that died just beyond our yard? an opposum? it’s pretty much all bones, now, and i would love to preserve it!

  4. ooh, bats are so cool! You should have mentioned that they eat TONS of bugs. That way all of the haters and people who are freaked by them can appreciate what they do for us.Too cool!

  5. OK, so is there an end goal for the frozen animals (like taxidermy) or are they just sort of there for inspection, cheek by jowl with the ice cream? 🙂

  6. My husband is a paleontologist, and at one time we had a sizeable dead animal collection. I highly recommend turning them into skeletons by either soaking them in a tergazyme solution, burying them in a bag in the backyard for a year (or more depending on size), or soaking in a stream for a few months in a weighted fine mesh cage. Skeletons are much easier to store and interact with, and less likely (though it’s not impossible) to pass along disease.

  7. In Minneapolis we have an audobon society whose sole purpose is to walk the city streets and document/pick up dead birds where they have been killed by broken necks flying into glass buildings. they record & graph the numbers & then even get changes made to the bldgs if the situation become an issue. Awesome program – manned entirely by volunteers!

  8. Okay I don’t want to be a huge downer here or anything, and I am usually the LEAST cautious parent when it comes stuff like this, but the bat population in the US tends to have a pretty high incidence of rabies, and when you find a dead bat in an open area like that, with no other signs of trauma… I would say it’s pretty likely. You can send it to your local health department to get it checked, and if it’s positive, they can advise you on the likelihood of any exposure leading to infection. I think in most cases you would have to be really examining it- like sticking your fingers in it’s mouth to look at the teeth, to contract anything.

    Here’s a little CDC guide to bats http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Bats/ and AGAIN I’m sorry be to be a downer. I live in Austin and we have an amazing population of Mexican Freetail bats that are just magical to watch but we’re all taught very often never to touch them.

  9. The only thing I’ve ever done with bones is soak them in a chlorox solution…not sure of the amounts. Just a splash in a bucket. And let them dry in the sun. Cool summer fun! And not something you will see written up in any family/kids magazine or website 😉

  10. So glad Kate commented on the rabies possibility. I also read the post with great interest (and the bat is so beautiful!) but wanted to warn about the possibility of it carrying rabies or white-nose syndrome. Wearing gloves for observation would be something to consider.I love the post’s message about encouraging budding naturalists. I love you blog!

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