Don's Jersey Birding: Silver-Haired Bat Rescued in Teaneck

After the little cold, wet and tired bat was rescued and had a chance to dry it turned out to be a Silver-Haired Bat - an uncommon visitor the the suburban areas of Bergen County.
Photo by Mike Malzone

By Don Torino

    On a cold rainy April night a few weeks back, I got a worried call from a BCAS colleague Pat Taaffe. “Don, I have a little bat on my front lawn. I think it’s alive what should  I do?”  Lucky for me and the little tired, wet, and cold bat I knew just who to call: Our superhero for bats - New Jersey’s own Batman, Joe D’Angeli! Mr. D'Angeli is a NJ state licensed chiroptologist, and his facility The Wildlife Conservation and Education Center in Ridgefield Park is licensed to exhibit, lecture on, and study live bats.

   Joe is the go to guy when it comes to local bat issues and has always been there when we have needed him. And just like the superhero with the same name, our Batman came to the rescue as soon as he heard a bat needed his help and proceeded to the house in Teaneck to help the little bat as best he could. Joes initial report told us there was no sign of white-nose syndrome but he also warned us not to get our hopes up.

  “Most of these kind of rescues do not wind up good for the bats, but the in next few days we should know if it will survive.”

   After a few days, I thought I would give Joe a call to find out the fate of our tiny friend. Hesitant to hear what I thought for sure would be bad news. I got myself prepared for the worse.

  “Our little girl is doing well,” Joe told me to my great relief.  “But we were amazed. After it had time to dry out, we realized it was a Silver–Haired Bat; a species that prefers heavily wooded habitat. A rare bat for our suburban area.” 

  Needless to say, we were elated with the good news and thrilled to hear we had the privilege to help such a special visitor.

     “We came to the conclusion that she was a young adult, probably about 2 years old or so, because of the physical attributes of her teeth and bone/finger joint maturity,” Joe told me.  “We evaluated her overall health and kept her warm and hydrated, isolated her. After the second night, she started exhibiting hunger behavior and started feeding on mealworms and wax worms in our bat wildlife facility, The Wildlife Conservation and Education Center. She ate enthusiastically for the two weeks that she was in our care.”

Our little Silver-Haired Bat reminded us that all life is precious, no matter how small and that every creature has an important place in the environment.
Photo by Mike Malzone

    Joe also explained why he was so excited to see Silver-Haired Bat, “Although Silver-Haired Bats aren't the rarest bat in NJ, there isn't a lot known about its habits and behaviors. They are migratory, at least in part, and they spend the summer in the North and winters toward the South. Surprisingly, few winter records are available and it's not really known just where these bats spend the winter. It’s very likely that many of them winter on their breeding grounds because occasional individuals have been found hibernating as far north as New York and British Columbia. One interesting thing is that most summer records of this bat across the southwest are of males, suggesting that geographical segregation of the sexes may occur during the warmer months. Females appear to move north in spring and summer to bear young, whereas the males remain behind at more southern areas."

        After a few weeks of fattening up on fat juicy wax worms, Joe told us he thought it was time to let “Sylvia”, as he called her, return to where she belonged; the wild.

Joe D'Angeli of the Wildlife Conservation and Education center gets rescued Silver-Haired Bat "Sylvia" ready for release
Photo by Mike Malzone

      Like a horde of nervous anxious parents watching our kids go off to school for the first time, we all met at Teaneck Creek Conservancy, a location close to where Sylvia was first found. Feeling very apprehensive to watch Joe open the little box to let our little rescue back into an uncertain and dangerous life in the wild, we all took a deep breath and waited. Sylvia was removed delicately from her enclosure and placed on the trunk of a tree.

     “There she goes!” yelled a nervous foster bat-parent. Sylvia did take off but only to make a low flying U-turn around a clearing right back to the small crowd of people watching her release. Joe picked her up again, concerned if she was really ready, if she was strong enough, and well enough to survive on her own. But just like when we let go and watch our family members go off on their own adventures, we knew it was time.

Like a horde of nervous anxious parents watching our kids off the school for the first time, we all waited to see if our little rescue would be okay.
Photo by Mike Malzone

     Sylvia flew off again, this time a wider circle and higher till we lost sight of her. Everyone stood there afraid that we may never know the fate of our tiny visitor, but across the field we could see her about 30 feet up on the side of a tree, right where she should be and ready for the world. Our group stood there and watched for any sign that she was well. As a grateful feeling of relief fell upon us. We knew we owed Joe D’Angeli a great deal of thanks for a job well done and when we finally looked back for Sylvia she was gone into the forest where she belonged.

  Will saving the little Silver-Haired Bat matter in the great scheme of things? Will it increase their population or save it for future generations? Probably not. But it reminded all of us that life is precious, no matter how small, and that every creature has an important place in the environment and when we have the chance to help or give a little back that is just what we should do .

   Thanks Sylvia and have a great life.

   For More information on Joe D’Angeli and the Wildlife Conservation and Education Center go to

Don Torino is the President of Bergen County Audubon Society.

Don's Previous Birding Exclusives:


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