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    Auction Finds

    A bat mounted in a case

    “Did you see the bat?” my auction buddy Janet asked, walking up to me as I was looking over some items on an auction table. I felt like ducking just in case a bat was flying overhead in this cavernous and dimly lit auction house. We were near a wide open door that offered some natural light, but this was a place with high dark ceilings that a bat could easily settle into.

    My imagination tamed, I followed her to the spot where she’d seen the animal. It was mounted inside a glass case, its wings stretched out tautly like a butterfly, its feet tippy-toed on the base and its under body exposed. Look closely and you could almost see its skeleton through the thin dried skin. Its mouth was pried open, revealing a row of fangs or teeth.

    The camera's light exposed the skeleton of the mounted bat.

    Seeing it there, I felt a little sorry for the creature. It looked to be in so much pain.

    I’ve seen my share of mounted animals at auction – from the exotic to the ordinary to stuffed birds from a dentist’s office to Taiwan butterflies – and I’ve written about them. This was my first bat, though, and I would put it in my “strange-items-sold-at-auction” category.

    I’ve never had the displeasure of experiencing a bat in real life. All of the ones I’ve seen have been on TV or in the movies – hence my imagination going wild when Janet first mentioned bats. In those instances, they were creatures of terror. This one, though, had lost any terrifying moments it had ever been able to induce.

    Despite that image, bats generally are good creatures that are instrumental in helping to preserve nature. The majority live on insects, especially pests, and they pollinate flowers and disperse fruit seeds. Still others eat small animals such as birds, lizards, frogs and fish. But the ones that strike terror are the blood-sucking vampire bats native to South America. They normally feed on farm animals but will feast on humans when that supply is inaccessible.

    A mounted bat ready for auction.

    Who mounts a bat and why? Bats are not the type of animals I would normally associate with taxidermy, but I suppose people stuff what moves them. I decided to Google to find out if such a thing was popular.

    I found several sites selling mounted bats, including two that were offering them as science specimens for students. “Makes a unique home or classroom display,” noted one of those sites. I even found a bat skeleton for sale ($57.95) and a bat head mounted on a circular wood frame that sold. Another site was selling the specimens for $20 to $245 on eBay, and the prices on several sites were in the $100 range.

    Back in 2004, an Austin, TX, organization urged people to protest the sale of mounted bats on eBay. It contended that most were from Southeast Asia and not properly identified, adding that most bats in the world were threatened and endangered.

    I wasn’t around when the bat was sold at auction, but I’m certain that it was picked up by someone. Practically everything sells at auction – even a poor bat in a glass case.



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