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What’s For Lunch?
Midwest Region, May 1, 2008
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Colby Wrasse examines the bat shortly after removing it from the gullet of a largemouth bass.
Colby Wrasse examines the bat shortly after removing it from the gullet of a largemouth bass. - Photo Credit: n/a
Partially digested Gray Bat with membranes fully intact after being removed from Largemouth Bass.
Partially digested Gray Bat with membranes fully intact after being removed from Largemouth Bass. - Photo Credit: n/a

It was a warm evening for early May, so Colby Wrasse (also a Lead Technician at Columbia NFWCO) and I decided to do a little fishing at a local conservation area. We were fishing for bluegill (and whatever else would bite) at Lick Creek Conservation Area. Missouri Department of Conservation manages the 300+ acre natural area and small 11 acre lake just north of Columbia, MO. The fishing was really good – not only were bluegill biting, but so were small channel catfish and largemouth bass! There is a 12 – 15” protected slot limit on largemouth bass taken from the lake. Upon catching a few small largemouth, Colby measured them and decided to do a little “management” by keeping some 11” bass. By dark we had a bucket of bluegill and largemouth bass to take home and fillet.

Back at home, we filleted the fishes without incident. Colby was going back through the bucket to make sure that we didn’t miss any fish and discovered that one of the 11” bass was regurgitating its lunch. Being the curious biologists that we are – he pulled the wad of tissue out of the gullet to see what it had been eating. At first glance he thought it was a baby bird but suddenly realized that it was a bat! We couldn’t believe it – and thought that no one else would believe it either (as we have all heard fish stories). After wiping the fish slime from our hands, we went sprinting for the camera – taking pictures of the bat and the filleted bass. Strangely, there was no fur left on the bat whatsoever, however, all the membranes were completely in tact. I have done a lot of mist-netting for bats, but without fur this one was beyond my identification skills. Several jokes were made about endangered bats as I put the creature in a mason jar filled with isopropyl alcohol.

Monday morning I brought the specimen into work and headed for Paul McKenzie, a USFWS Fish & Wildlife Biologist, in Ecological Services. He was as surprised as we were to see the naked bat and to hear the story. Conveniently, he was leaving that morning to attend a national bat workshop in the Ozarks. He took the specimen to the conference where bat biologists eagerly poked, prodded and photographed the animal. Sara Gardner of Auburn University in Alabama made the final determination – the wing was connected at the ankle, the calcar had no keel and there was a notch at the tip of the claws. This was a federally endangered gray bat (Myotis grisescens)!

As biologists, our fascination with living (and dead) things is never satisfied – from fish guts to partially digested mammals - we are always learning and teaching. This has been a great opportunity to network with professionals from many agencies and institutions across the nation. After all the necessary data are collected, the bat will find a new home in the University of Kansas Natural History Museum collection. Perhaps some information from this specimen can be used protect, enhance or conserve bat species in Missouri and elsewhere. I know that Colby and I will certainly continue to protect and conserve bat populations by managing largemouth bass!  Hmmm…I wonder if they have designed a bat lure yet?


Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov



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