The Bat is Out of the House & Bat Facts from a Wildlife Biologist

Bareboat 2007 131

Since I’m on the topic of bats, I pulled out this photo that I took of John snorkeling at the entrance to Byahaut Bat Cave in St. Vincent. If you’d like to read the article I wrote on St. Vincent, which includes travel tips, click here.

When I went over to the house yesterday, I asked John,”Is the bat still here?” He said, “No, it took off.” I remained for a while to make sure I didn’t hear the eerie chirpy noise that bats make and all was silent. So leaving the door open worked; the bat, possibly two bats, flew the coup.

Before going to the house yesterday morning, I emailed Meg, who is one of my blog followers. Meg, has an interesting and informative blog called Animals and Weapons. She emailed me the other day and I discovered that she is an wildlife biologist located in Colorado.

Considering she’s an expert on wildlife, I shot off an email to her asking about the proper removal of a bat (just in case it didn’t exit via the open door.)

PS Our dog, Kiwi, had his rabies vaccination in October and it’s good for 3 years. Due to a heat wave, he was not at the house when the bat paid a brief visit.

Meg responded with the following bat facts:

Sue,

Bats! Bats are such awesome insect eating creatures! Not cool when they are in your house…

Ok first things first: While bats (and any other mammal) can carry rabies it occurs in very low amounts in the bat species. Raccoons and skunks are more likely to have rabies than bats. Rabies can only be spread by saliva through an open wound bite and since you are not sleeping at the house you would know if you were bitten! (Also, bats are not attracted to hair, that’s a myth). If you were to discover a bat flying around in the room of a sleeping child or elderly person it would be a good idea to catch the bat and test if for rabies. Better safe then sorry! I would also make sure your dog is up to date on his rabies vaccine.

-If you see a bat lying down ALWAYS wear big thick leather gloves before handling it. If, heaven forbid, you are bitten, try to catch the bat to have it tested in a laboratory immediately (it will be killed). The turnaround time on this kind of test is very fast and will prevent unnecessary and expensive rabies shots for you.

-You can’t purposefully kill them. It’s illegal in Pennsylvania and most other states. The only way you can get rid of them is excluding them from getting back into the roost. They can get into attics with cracks smaller then a 1/2″.

Here’s the bad news: (Keep in mind that the attic at Brick House 319 has been gutted  and is wide open without a floor and  soon the roof will be taken off.) The following facts pertain to anyone with an attic and a potential bat issue.

-Bats attracted to roosting in attics tend to do so in groups. You may have a small colony up there. I would wait until tonight to watch it/them come out. They will leave the roost at dusk and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re dealing with. If it’s one or two bats it will be pretty easy to do the exclusion process which involves putting up netting so they can get out but not back in and then sealing up all the holes in the attic (they can’t chew through things so caulk would work for this activity).

-Unfortunately bat populations are in decline for various reasons including losing roosts. If you’re pro bats (just not in your house) you might consider putting a bat house up in your trees. Putting up a bat house while undergoing the exclusion process may quicken the eviction process since the bat house will become a more desirable roost then your attic. Also, bats can eat 1,000 mosquitoes a night. They are good neighbors just not good tenants!

Here’s the good news:

-Male bats tend to be solitary but if it is a colony it is a maternity colony. Luckily it’s starting to be late enough in the summer that the pups (babies) are getting old enough to start flying out at night so you don’t have to worry about sealing in a bunch of pups and excluding nursing mothers.

-I’ve worked around solitary and colony bats in caves often within a couple feet of them. They don’t spook like birds do. They don’t have many natural predators so they will sit tight unless directly threatened. Often they will stay perfectly still as if dead until you poke them and then they will move so suddenly you might (as my bat biologist friend says) crap your pants.

-You will likely find that you can still get work done around the house and in the attic as long as you maintain a respectful distance and don’t mess with them. If using noisy tools like a nail gun I would test it out and see if they moved and if not I would continue on like normal.

-Excluding bats is a relatively easy and inexpensive DIY project. Basically you find entry points, install one way exits with netting wait a week and then seal it up. Here is a PDF I found that described the process pretty well.

-In late August through early October the bats will begin vacating your house in order to migrate south or to find more suitable winter hibernation areas. So if you wait long enough and are able to work around the bats they will leave on their own and then you can seal all the holes while they are away without having to deal with exclusion netting.

Questions for Meg, send her an email: meg@animalsandweapons.com

 

If you would like to make your own bat house, click here.

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