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Taxidermy Bats

Anyone interested in taxidermy, preserved specimens, or oddities has probably come across taxidermy bats or articulated skeletons. These are very common among macabre collectors and artists and can be found in many shapes, sizes, and styles. But the culling and collection methods of these bats are by no way ethical or sustainable. 

I want to premise this by stating that at one point we did purchase and sell bats just like these, we often used them to make art pieces or create interesting hanging specimens. But we have since learned the truth and ethical concerns that surround bat taxidermy. We no longer carry taxidermy bats and instead are striving to educate others and help bring this topic more traction within our community. 

Very often in our community we argue about the word 'ethical', as this can be subjective among different people. Some people may only collect those specimens which have passed naturally or have been scavenged, while others may be fine with fur or hunting. Regardless of how you view the ethics of animal parts and products, most can agree that the mass culling of wild populations is not good for the environment and fuels a system that contributes to unnecessary death. 

Bats do not breed well in captivity and are not commercially farmed, meaning that entire communal groups are often captured and killed in the hundreds to thousands. Whole colonies can be wiped out in a matter of days and, with many species being slow breeders, can take decades for populations to re-establish healthy numbers again.

Many countries where these bats are being harvested lack adequate research and protections for these animals, allowing for mass commercial collecting without care for the environmental and preservation status of these species. We often forget how important bats are to the environment, not just for insect control but as key pollinators in the life chain. The prioritizing of profit over preservation is the ethical dilemma surrounding the collection of bats for taxidermy. 

Group of Hanging Bats Image by Jody Confer

In many countries with regulating agencies bats are heavily protected or require special licensing or permits to own. Here in the United States, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act of 1956 protect eight species of native bats as well as dwelling and habitats. With populations continuing to decline worldwide, we can hope that more species will be added to these protections in the coming years. But until bats have more protections in less regulated parts of the world, we view this commercial harvesting as merely poaching. 

One of the things we consider when we obtain animal products or taxidermy, is the necessity for death and the sustainability of the species. To us this means we ask a few questions when bringing in products. Why did this animal die and how is it being used afterwards? Is this going to hurt a population or actively cause unnecessary harm? Many of our products are farmed animals or those being used for food, fur, by-products, etc. so we like to view this as using as much of the animal as possible to prevent waste of those parts. For example, cows are harvested for meat, but by-products could include horns, hooves, bones, leather, and organs. Using as much of the animal as possible is the key to sustainable use as well as honoring the life lost. This ideology does not include bats, which are being killed merely to serve as a display piece with no other usage. The scale at which these animals are being harvested is not sustainable long term and if we keep buying them (at very cheap prices to add) the death toll will continue to rise until the species can no longer sustain itself and collapses completely.

Live Bat on Branch

Is there even such as thing as ethical bat taxidermy? I have come across a few individual rare specimens that came out of zoos and museums (with permitting) but most of the bats on the market fall into this problematic category. I have heard people claim that their bats are 'ethically sourced' or 'died of natural causes' and I will be the first to call bullshit and ask for the receipts. Especially here in the United States, where every state has differing laws when it comes to native wildlife and the legality of owning and even moving native wildlife between states (dead or alive). Occasionally you might find a dried-up bat in an attic or some roadkill specimens, but given your state it may be illegal to own, sell, or move states with.


So how can you tell the difference? Ask where the bat came from or what species it is and check the validity of those answers. Look up your local species and the laws governing owning bats. Most bats coming from over seas all look very similar; wings spread, hanging or perched, fully articulated skeletons. Here are some examples below of what to look for. 

Taxidermy Bat Sizes
Bat Skeleton Articulated
Haning Taxidermy Bats
Taxidermy Bat in Resin or Epoxy

I have heard the excuse of 'population control' and 'invasive species' a few times to justify mass culling, but these claims should be researched heavily and often must be taken with a grain of salt. For example, Peru has been culling vampire bats for decades in an attempt to mitigate the spread of rabies. But studies are torn on the efficacy of these practices and if they actually serve to decrease transmission into livestock populations or are instead, making the problem worse. Many species of flying foxes and fruit bats are culled every year worldwide to protect orchards and the fruit industry, but this practice has already driven many of these species into endangerment and even extinction (such as the Guam Flying Fox). Between habitat loss, climate change, and unnecessary human culling programs, the future of bats is greatly at risk. 

Live Fruit Bat Hanging

There are many vendors and artists who have no idea that this is occurring behind the scenes. Especially as many wholesalers and vendors online make false claims about the sourcing of their bats without knowing the truth behind it. There are also those who will purposefully make false claims and lie to make a quick profit and this is not new within the community, we should always vet our sources and make sure what we are getting is real and/or truthful. Educating those around us is the key to making change in our communities, if we continue to buy taxidermy bats they will continue to be killed until we have stripped the resource bare. 

If you really want bat products or art, look for artists or vendors who are selling alternatives. There is a growing market for 3-D printed skulls, sculptures, and even faux taxidermy that will provide the aesthetic without contributing to active harm among foreign bat populations. By buying alternatives we can help save and support one of our planets most valuable pollinators. 

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