While some people may have bats in their belfry, Monique Smith Lee has them in her home. In fact, she has turned one of her bedrooms into a bat cave, which is fine with her husband and son, Ronan, 7, who live in Corralitos.
Even though he loves the bats and says they are prettier than his two dogs, Ronan gave his mother a disapproving look when she
Sometimes he joins her and her bats when she goes out to educate the public, speaking to organizations like Rotary clubs and
This week you can meet Smith Lee, president of the Bat Conservancy of Coastal California, and her coterie of bats, at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, contact santacruzmuseums.org.
Recently at a packed presentation at Quail Hollow Ranch County Park, she walked around the audience with tiny brown faces peering out from the safety of her white-gloved hand. For most people, this was their first experience at seeing a bat up close instead of viewing it as a scary black boomerang hurtling through the evening sky. They were excited to get as close as they could, but as a licensed State Fish and Game rehabilitator, Smith Lee is cautious not to allow anyone within 6 feet of her bats.
She dispelled any myths about our local bats, like being blood suckers, and the audience had a new perspective on this little nocturnal animal, which helps people by eating insects, particularly mosquitoes. You probably will not need to put away your insect repellent, but buying or building a bat house would be a bat-friendly and eco-friendly project.
In April, Smith Lee received a hoary bat with a broken wing, which she took to Dr. Kerrin Hoban, who specializes in bats, at Harbor
Veterinarian Hospital in Santa Cruz. Although the wing was set, bats cannot be released back into the wild with such an injury, because they typically have lost the ability to swoop down and catch insects.
One day when she was feeding the bat, who was hanging upside down, it flipped over and exposed twin babies clutching her
body. “I’ve never had a bat in rehab give birth! This is a first for me! Since mother bats teach their babies how to fly and this one can’t, I’ll need to tap into some people who have done this before.”
To see videos and learn more about our local bats, visit kqed.org/quest/television/bats-in-our-midst.
And if you find a bat? The Bat Conservancy of Coastal California wants you to know a few things:
The most important thing to do is never touch a bat with your bare hands. Bats are wild animals and should be treated with great care. Never attempt to feed, treat or wash an injured bat.
If you find a bat hanging from a wall or a tree and think it might be injured:
- Wait until evening and see if it leaves on its own.
Sometimes bats look sick or hurt but are actually just sleeping!
- If the bat doesn’t leave once the sun is all the way down, contact Smith Lee on her cell phone at 408-506-7167 or 831-722-5011.
If you find a bat in your home:
- Open all doors and windows that lead outside.
- Close off the rest of the house, leaving a
path from the bat’s location to the outdoors.
- Turn out the lights.
- Leave the bat for a few hours to see if it
leaves on its own.
- If it does not leave, contact Smith Lee.
If you find a bat lying on the ground:
- Without touching the bat, use a cloth or a
piece of paper to gently scoop the animal into a small container, such as a shoebox.
- Put a soft cloth into the box to give the bat
something to cling to.
- Cover the container and put it somewhere
children and pets cannot disturb it.
- Contact Smith Lee.