Last week, we found a bat entangled in a barbed wire fence . It was hanging less than a meter from the ground, with one of its wings wrapped around the barbed wire. It was still alive.
We untangled it and took it home, where we gave it water and a rehydration solution. We fed it with a pipet, from which it readily drank.
We fed it every two to three hours, and between feedings we hung it on a little stick propped inside a closet, in the guest bedroom.
We soon grew attached to it, and named him - it was a male - Frederick. He had some wing damage from being stuck on the fence, but otherwise seemed in rather good condition. Once rehydrated, he became quite active.
Frederick is a Great Fruit-eating Bat, Artibeus literatus. This species occurs throughout Mexico and Central America, and northern South America. Naturally, fruit bats are a lot easier to care for than insectivorous bats. We made him a banana and watermelon smoothie, which he lapped up readily!
As Fred got more active, he also tried to fly. At one point we heard noises coming from the room, looked at each other, and said "he must be trying to fly". We went in, and there he was, spread-eagled on the floor, making short flappy jumps. When I reached to pick him up, he bit me.
At first, I didn't think much of it. I cleaned the bite wound on my thumb, and we continued to feed Frederick. A couple of feedings later, he seemed ready to be released. After nightfall, we hung him on a piece of string under a little tree in our yard, and gave him a piece of banana. Twenty minutes later, Fred was still there but the banana was gone. Later that evening, we gave him another piece. The next morning, Frederick was gone.
I researched the bat bite a little on the internet, and learned that any kind of bite from a bat is cause for concern; and that after thoroughly cleaning the bite site, I should also seek medical assistance. This I did: the local hospital did not have the anti-rabies vaccine, but they suggested I go to the town's medical center. That was already closed, so I went the next morning, after our field work.
Our medical center here did not have any anti-rabies vaccine, it turned out. They suggested I contact my medical insurance. They referred me to a medical center in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, which is a 45 min drive from here.
Once we got there and I was checked into the medical center, there was nothing else to do but wait my turn in the crowded hallway. I re-read Alice in Wonderland beginning to end, and had just started on Through the Looking-Glass, when I was called in for an exam.
After hearing my story, and after finding out the bat was no longer in our possession, medical staff there advised me that very likely I was not infected with rabies, but that I should follow an anti-rabies cure, just to be safe. I received a tetanus injection and the first of a series of anti-rabies injections.
So now I'm traveling to Tegucigalpa every day for my shot of anti-rabies vaccine. My regimen prescribes six shots over a period of six days, then one more shot ten days later. I need to be back there for medical exams two more times after that, once in February and once in April.
I'm the darling of the nurses there. There's usually seven or eight nurses attending me, and they take pictures of me receiving the shots almost every time. I'm not quite sure why. When they asked me why I was there, I explained that I was bitten by a bat, and I reassured them that they were quite safe: the bite had not turned me into a vampire.
A few days before we found Frederick, we found another fruit bat, also entangled in barbed wire. This bat (we called her Mathilda) had been hanging out in the sun for almost a day, and was severely dehydrated. Her condition was much worse than Frederick's, and despite our care, she died a day later.
Barbed wire fences, apparently, are a threat to fruit bats around the world, as this Australian poster from bats.org.au shows.