How To Stuff A Bat

I was amused to find volume 1 of "The Amateur Mechanic" at a recent local jumble sale. I am currently unable to date the book but suspect it is of circa 1920 origin. In addition to such gems as installation of domestic speaking tubes, renovation of barometers, soap-making and such like there is a very illuminating section on taxidermy. Not of much interest to cavers you may be thinking except that this includes explicit details on the stuffing and mounting of bats! I feel the volume is of sufficient age that plagiarism will not be a problem!

"It may be mentioned that bats are generally difficult to mount successfully. Not only is the skin very fragile, but the wing membrane is very liable to damage. Specimens of this class are generally seen with the wings completely flattened and heavily varnished though the reason for the latter treatment is difficult to conceive. The flattening of the wing membrane is obviously a travesty of nature, due to the fact that the specimen after stuffing has been laid out and "set" with strips of card, much in the same way that butterflies and moths are treated. Such specimens, it may be added are usually displayed "spatchcocked" on to a piece of sky-blue board.

Now in giving more considerate treatment to these most interesting subjects, it may be mentioned that the opening cut should be made on the surface less exposed to view; skinning may be performed with equal facility from the stomach or back. The legs, wings and tail should all be wired to a central core. The wires for the wings should be passed down the joints composed of (a) radius and ulna, and (b) humerus, in each member.

It is useless to attempt to insert the point higher up than this, and it is difficult enough to perform the necessary amount of wiring without splitting the membrane either on the joints themselves or elsewhere. It is not difficult, however, to insert the leg and tail wires. Before the specimen is sewn up, another wire should be bolted to the centre of the body core. This is intended for a temporary or permanent support for the specimen when ready for casing up.

It is perhaps, unnecessary to state that the wing membrane, when the animal is in flight, would bulge considerably by reason of air pressure. Now, although specimens are very apt after drying to partially lose this feature, however carefully it may have been induced in the first place, attention should be paid to the wings with a view to giving them correct form. The following means cannot be bettered. It may be mentioned that there are several other methods, but none so straightforward. The specimen having been laid front downwards on a piece of wood, a few light lashings of thread are passed over the wings close to the body, these being applied sufficiently loosely to permit of easy and free movement of the specimen. Cotton-wool is then packed under each wing, piece by piece, until the membrane is expanded to its fullest extent. The secondary effect of this treatment will be to slightly raise the lower surface of the creatures body off the board itself. The wings having been arranged in the required position, a few fine entomological pins may be used to secure the margins. The membrane on drying requires little further treatment; if anything is used to restore the fresh appearance, which in certain species may be partly lost, a little glycerine should be applied"

So now you know - though I hope you never practice the skill. Oh, and if you get to read this the editor must be really desperate!

Chris Fry