Baker’s bats bite: From freshman to ‘Batgirl’

Story by Mykaela Cross, Writer

Freshman Jesse Gardner left her Salon class on Aug. 30 to find herself in an unusual position. With no time to think and her own emotions running high, she quickly realized she had two options: save a life or walk away.

“I got out of my class early in the morning,” Gardner said. “I saw everyone stepping over something and going on their way, and I looked down and there was something in the doorway that I couldn’t recognize. Then the question hit me, is that a bat?”

Using a stick, Gardner got the little critter from the concrete of Case Hall to a tree on campus, but it was unable to hold onto the branch like she had hoped and fell to the ground once more. Determined not to leave the stranded mammal stunned on the ground, Gardner tried to maneuver the bat with her hand back onto the stick. To her surprise, he wasn’t as thankful as she thought.

“He bit my middle finger,” Gardner said. “He was obviously scared.”

After a few moments of coaxing, Gardner managed to use the stick to place the bat on a branch it could hold onto. With a few moments rest and rehabilitation, the creature of the night took off into the safety of the trees.

“I couldn’t just leave him there to get stepped on or smashed by the door,” Gardner said. “The majority of people are like ‘How are you so stupid to pick up a bat?’ But I’m very much an animal lover, and I couldn’t just leave him there to die.”

Freshman Kaeli Whitener witnessed the scene and aided Gardner in her quest to save the day. She remarked on how strange the situation was and applauded Gardner’s heroism.

“That poor bat would have gotten stepped on or smashed if not for Jesse. She saved his life,” Whitener said.

While Whitener believes that what Gardner did was heroic, looking back she also notes how strange the entire fiasco really was.

“I was just really confused as to why there was a bat at 10 a.m. in the Case Hall doorway,” Whitener said. “I was not really afraid because the bat was really small, so it would not have done much damage if it had tried to attack anyone, but it was all really bizarre.”

After being bitten and watching the creature fly away, Gardner sought the advice of the Health and Wellness Center on campus.

Jesse Gardner stands and points to where she found an injured Bat earlier this semester.
Photo by Alex Fortuna
Freshman Jesse Gardner shows where she found the injured bat earlier this semester, in the doorway of Case Hall.

“I went to the Health Center and asked if bat bites are bad, and he sent me to the ER in Lawrence. I had to get seven rabies shots that day, and I had to go back three more times for ten shots altogether,” Gardner said. “The shots hurt a lot, I got one in each arm, one in each hip and two in each thigh the day of, but it was definitely worth it.”

Since the ordeal, some students on campus, and peers of Gardner’s, have begun calling her ‘Batgirl,’ a nickname she doesn’t abhor.

“I don’t mind that people call me Batgirl because I know it’s all in fun and that I did it for the right reasons,” Gardner said.

Dean of Students Cassy Bailey sent out an email as a result of the incident and admits that animal entanglements on campus are common. Whether it be cats, dogs, squirrels, possums or, for the first time at Baker, bats, Bailey warns students to be wary when dealing with wild animals.

“Look with your eyes, and not your hands,” Bailey said.

The most common critter problems come from the campus cats, particularly in winter months. Bailey believes that students feel bad for the cute kitties and let the animals into the resident halls and university buildings without realizing what some of the consequences can be, which include urination, fleas and even worms.

“It’s really not a game to bring them into the halls,” Bailey said.

In the event that something does happen and students are harmed by a critter on campus, Bailey advises them to seek help immediately.

“If a bite happens, students need to seek medical attention right away at either the Health Center here on campus, or at some sort of mediquick,” Bailey said. “You never know with a bite what kinds of infections or diseases can be transmitted.”

Although Bailey is encouraged by the compassion shown by animal-loving students, she would recommend that they demonstrate that love with tame animals rather than their potentially dangerous and wild counterparts.

“I love that our students are so compassionate toward animals,” Bailey said. “And I would encourage students who need a dog or cat fix to meet someone in the community or a faculty or a staff member who has a pet to visit, or I would highly encourage them to visit one of our many shelters who are always in need of volunteers.”

While Gardner’s situation resulted in the pin-prick of several shots, she affirms that her decision was the right one and admits that she would do it again in a heartbeat.

“If it means that I would save an animal’s life, I would do it all over again,” Gardner said. “Since I’ve had the rabies shots, just call me if you have a squirrel in your room.”