bruce bat

After the untimely death of a bat named Bruce, the third floor at The Courtyards raised funds for the Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, Inc. to honor the bat who once lived on their floor.

Mandy DiMauro, junior inclusive early childhood education major, said on Feb. 20, a student messaged the floor group chat about a bat in the hallway. DiMauro said people started sending jokes about the bat on their floor, like the bat was their floor’s mascot and that they should name him Bruce.

Monica Vazquez, senior fisheries and wildlife major, said she and her roommate caught the bat the next day using thick gloves and a towel and put Bruce in a box.

Vazquez said they took the box downstairs to the front desk to alert them that they caught the bat. The workers at the front desk said they would call professional assistance to come get Bruce.

On Feb. 24, Vazquez said she was walking to her car to go to work when she saw a box laying in the snow by the tennis courts across from The Courtyards. She noticed it was the same box she put Bruce in and when she opened the box, she saw Bruce in there.

Vazquez said she knew bats should be hibernating during that time. She was reluctant to hand Bruce over to the person that the UNL employee called because she was worried that it was not ideal weather for bats to be released. However, Vazquez said she ended up giving the bat over because she assumed they knew what to do.

“But then I saw it frozen to death,” Vazquez said. “It’s not like the bat was sick and he just left it there. He just abandoned it and it froze.”

DiMauro said Vazquez told the group chat that she found the box and Bruce had died. DiMauro said when she checked her phone later, there were around 70 messages, including one person who said it made them cry during class. 

“Overall, people were very upset by it, especially in the way that he died,” DiMauro said.

DiMauro said when Bruce was captured and handed over to a UNL employee, someone in the group chat said “gone, but never forgotten,” and she wrote that on a piece of paper and traced a picture of a baby bat from Google, then hung it on one of the walls on their floor.

Students living on the floor started telling DiMauro that they would love a shirt with that design, so she copied and pasted the design on a shirt on CustomInk, according to DiMauro. 

Vazquez said she and her roommate suggested creating a fundraiser toward Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, Inc. because they both interned there last summer and the organization is dedicated to saving wild animals.

Currently, there is $125 donated on GoFundMe, and $300 raised on CustomInk.

DiMauro said what happened to Bruce shocked everyone on her floor, but it also brought them closer together.

“It united us to a cause,” DiMauro said. “It’s taking this thing that was an inside joke on our floor and it’s blossoming into this amazing fundraiser that we started. It’s actually doing something and I think people are really proud to see that.”

Before Bruce was discovered on the floor, Vazquez said people did not talk or socialize much with each other, especially since there are not any floor events or gatherings due to the pandemic.

“We all said how Bruce brought us together during a time where we were really separated,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez said she hopes UNL educates its employees better on what to do differently in a situation where an animal is inside of a campus building. Vazquez said UNL could create stricter policies as well, like transporting said animals to a wildlife rehab or rescue immediately after they are caught to make sure the animal is not sick or injured.

“I believe that it’s important to spread the word about wild animals that are in need and educating people about wild animals,” Vazquez said. “Bats are protected in the state of Nebraska and it is illegal to kill bats, so this is another reason why bringing awareness to the situation is very important to me.”