The Slow-Cooked Sentence

A night with bats

Rachael Conlin Levy

The biologist was a slip of woman with long, dark hair streaked silver the shade of moonlight. She waited on the casino rooftop for the bats to arrive as dusk faded and night’s long shadows wrapped around her.

Nearby was a small electronic box waiting to help her with identification by recording the bats’ high-pitched clicks and chirps, and circling her was a casino security guard, waiting for her to unexpectedly plunge off the side. But she wasn’t going to jump. She was going to count the number of Spotted Bats, rare and solitary creatures found in just one location in all of northern Nevada, and that was here, circling the towers of the Grand Sierra Resort.

The biologist worked for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, documenting animals found living too close to humans, and sometimes this brought her into contact with bats. But she sought out this animal in her spare time, too: Following the growth of a female colony raising pups in her neighborhood, and mimicking the mother bats’ chirps so the babies would skim her head in curiosity.

Tonight, as she stood on the roof high above Reno, it was she who was curious. The electronic box was picking up bat sounds, but they were far away, flitting above the casino’s putting range and pond. She held her flashlight and waited. The casino’s perimeter lights clicked off and the night around the towers grew denser, drawing the bats closer to her.

Her flashlight sliced through the shadows and struck a bat as it tipped its wings and exposed its furry backside. She counted and smiled into the night.

My thanks to Jennifer Jeffers from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, for sharing her stories and love of bats, and to Silver City’s summer youth program for sponsoring the talk. If you would like to help count bats, email Jeffers at 423-3171, ext. 234.

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