Campbell is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in the state of New York. She runs Wild Things Sanctuary, specializing in bat care, out of her home. Though Campbell founded the sanctuary in 2008 and has experience with most species native to New York, she began working mainly with bats in 2012 in response to declining populations and a realization of how few rehabilitators worked with them.
“About the time I started rehabilitating animals, the numbers started to decline because of White-nose Syndrome, which is this awful disease that has been killing bats,” Campbell said. “Populations were declining, nobody looked after them and I thought they were kind of cool. I don’t think I know any other animal that provides such a wonderful service for humans but are treated so badly by humans.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, White-nose Syndrome began killing off bats between 2007 and 2008 and has since been responsible for millions of insect-eating bat deaths in 31 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces.
Despite the demand, Wild Things Sanctuary is one of the only facilities of its kind.
“There aren’t a lot of wildlife rehabilitators to begin with. … It wasn’t my goal of being a super unique place, but it’s pretty much one of the only places in the Northeast that just works with bats,” Campbell said.
Meghan Roblee began volunteering with Wild Things a little over a month ago. She is a licensed veterinary technician who also volunteers with Wildlife Wishing Well, another wildlife sanctuary in Ithaca. Roblee has experience caring for and rehabilitating both domestic and wild animals, but bats are new to her. She became interested in helping them after hearing about Campbell’s work from colleagues at Wildlife Wishing Well.
“I’m definitely the type of person who roots for the underdog,” Roblee said. “We, as a general species of mammal, do not appreciate what they do.”
Bats do a lot for humans. Insect-eating bats control pest populations and prevent the spread of mosquito-borne disease. Fruit-eating bats, common in the southern hemisphere, are pollinators.