Order Name: chiroptera
BatHouse, click here!
BATS have adapted to urban sprawl by choosing your home to set up house. For information on controlling bats and evicting bats from your home, this is the page for you. Every August, my beeper goes off in the middle of the night. A panic stricken person has called wanting me to remove some bat that is flying around in their bedroom. These calls occur in August because this is the month that the baby bats are learning how to fly. Since they donít have the wing strength of the adults, they are not always able to follow them out of the building through the same exit. Thus they do the next best thing, they leave the attic through any hole they can find. Sometimes, that means they follow a steam heat pipe into the bedroom of the unsuspecting owner or tenant. It is unfortunate that horror movies combined with a lack of knowledge have encouraged so many phobias about these special creatures. For when we donít understand an animal, the animal usually loses. In this column, I would like to inform you about the two main species of bats that you as a homeowner will most likely encounter. They are the small and big brown bats. Hopefully, being armed with this new information, your time with bats will be less stressful for you and the bat. Controlling Bats in homes
Despite how they appear in flight, these bats are remarkably small creatures. The big brown bat from head to toe is less than five inches in length and weighs a whopping Ĺ an ounce. They look larger in flight because their skin like wings are fully extended. The small brown can fit through a crack as small as 3/8 of an inch wide. Yet despite their small size, these flying mammals have a very important role in our environment. They are the only night flying predator of insects we have. One small brown bat can literally eat thousands of insects every night. This valuable service is even more remarkable in that they donít need to use electricity (as in bug zappers) nor petrochemicals (as in various pesticides). Thus bats are not our enemy, they are a valuable friend.
Bats find these insects using echolocation. The bat emits a sound which returns to the bat after it is bounced off of an object. The bat then locates the object and decides whether it should be eaten. All of this happens in full flight and at full flight speed. Contrary to the popular phrase, "blind as a bat," bats are not blind. In fact they can see rather well for creatures adapted to living at night.
Bats have relatively long life spans. They have been known to live in the wild for 10 years. Unfortunately, they donít reproduce very rapidly. Small browns have one young per year and big browns only have two young per year. Destruction of a house dwelling colony can result in a significant depletion in bat population for years to come. There is rarely ever a real need to destroy a colony of bats, if homeowners would take a little time to educate themselves about these creatures. Avoiding bat control techniques between the months of May-August will prevent the destruction of the colony and any unborn or flightless young.
These two species typically roost in the attics of large buildings because there arenít as many hollow standing trees around any more. While they typically winter in the cool temperatures of caves, these bats need the hot temperatures provided by attics in order to raise young. Studies have shown that the specific temperature needed by bats is 90 degrees. Bats need this heat because unlike other creatures they donít make a nest to keep the young warm so they are totally dependent on their environment and each other for warmth. Once the bats have found a suitable building they will return to it year after year. If you have bats this year, chances are you will have them again next year. Next year, however, you will have more as the young will also return the breeding ground.
If you want to look for bats, seek areas where there is water nearby. Bats, being insectivores, will feed on the abundant insects that live around swamps. On a clear night, look around the tree line while the sky is still blue. The bat will be silhouetted against the night sky. You can tell its not a bird by the herky jerky manner of its flight. If you want to know if bats are living in your house, have friends or family members stationed at the four corners of the house during a clear calm night. They need to be far enough away to see as much of the house as possible without having to turn their heads. Everyone should be in place at sunset (call your local T.V. station to find out when it occurs) and able to watch the house until it gets dark. Once someone sees a bat, it should be noted which side of the house it was first seen. Be sure to wait a little longer as other bats may fly out. On subsequent nights, attention can be focused on that part of the house to see if you locate the exit hole. Remember this hole can be as small as 3/8 of an inch so look attentively. If you have a number of bats living there, you may even notice rice sized black feces on the driveway, patio and even clinging to the side of the house. Bats always defecate before reentering the building so keep an eye out for their feces. Once you find some, look up, for their exit hole will be directly above where the feces has landed.
It sounds like something is flying in your room. Itís a bat and he is cruising around your room.
Whether or not this somewhat amusing scene has ever happened to you, it is important that you and your family know how to properly respond to this particular situation. For although 99% of all bats DONíT have rabies, one percent do. Thus it is imperative that you take appropriate steps to guard you, your family and your pets from possible exposure to this life threatening disease. The first step is to obey the law. Massachusetts law requires that all Cats and Dogs must have up to date rabies vaccinations. Your indoor only pet is not exempted from this law. Every dog and cat must be vaccinated. There is a good reason for this law, because chances are your pet will find the bat before you do. While the bat is no match for your dog or cat, the bat can inflict a fatal disease on your pet known as rabies. So consult your vet and make sure your pets are up to date with their rabies shots.
The second step, when a bat is in your bedroom, is to stay calm. Running out of the room may make you feel better but actually creates a more dangerous situation. Let me explain. If you leave the room, you wonít know where the bat is. If you donít know the whereabouts of the bat you wonít know whether or not it is still in your house. Trust me. Bats can fit into some very small spaces. Just because you canít find the bat anymore doesnít mean it isnít in the room. It could be under the bed, behind a curtain, in your clothes etc. By not knowing where the bat is you or a loved one could accidentally grab the bat while handling something else. And when a bat is grabbed it will bite like any other animal would. So, after you see the bat enclose the bat into as small a portion of the house as possible. If he is in your bedroom, close the bedroom door and place a towel at the base (bats can crawl under doors). Then open the windows and screens and then stand in the corner. Standing in the corner allows you to watch the bat while staying out of its way. Donít stand in the middle of the room as the bat will have to fly around you. Be prepared to watch the bat for up to 20 minutes. The bat will continue to fly around the room trying to orient itself. If it can sense the fresh air it will fly out the window. You must be patient.
If the bat tires and lands on something then you must take a third step. Wearing thick leather gloves, hold a large mouth glass or Tupperware container. Then cover the bat with the container so that he is trapped inside the container and the wall. Using a stiff piece of paper, slide it between the wall and the rim of the wide mouth container thereby trapping the bat inside.
Fourth Step: If you were asleep in the room with the bat and/or a child under 10 was in the room with the bat (whether the child was awake or not), then you must take the bat to a facility where it can be tested for rabies. (Call your local health department). The reason why this is important is that most of the people who have died from rabies in the U.S. have died from bat rabies and most of them didn't know they were bitten. As always follow the bat rabies protocols for your state which should be found at your state's health department.
If no one was sleeping when the bat appeared and there weren't any young children in the room, then the bat may be released. The proper release procedure is to place the trapped bat against a tree and then slide the paper out and then remove the container. Releasing the bat against the tree allows the bat to continue to rest while being safe from potential predators like the neighborís cat. This method also has the advantage of being harmless to the bat.
The majority of humans that have died of rabies (also known as hydrophobia) in the U.S. have died from the bat strain of rabies. Some states like N.Y. and MA have changed their protocols in dealing with potential bat exposures. Part of the reason is that bat bites don't leave a mark large enough for most people to notice. So even if you think you haven't been exposed, you may have. Assume that you were bitten by the bat if you awaken to find a bat flying in your room. If a bat is found in a room with an unattended child whether sleeping or not assume the child was bitten. If you suspect that you, your family or pet have come into contact with a bat do not let it out of your house! The bat must be captured, without damaging its head, and then tested for rabies. Donít use a tennis racket to stun it! If you are too frightened to take care of it yourself, call your local health department or police and inform them of your situation. They should know someone they can direct you to. If only your pet has come into contact with the bat donít handle your pet without wearing proper hand protection. Remember, rabies is carried in the saliva and nerve tissue of its victim. If your pet has been the bat or has been bitten you wonít know where the saliva of that bat might be on your pet. If you must handle your pet do so with rubber gloves and then only sparingly. Consult your veterinarian as to the proper course of action. The likelihood of your contracting rabies from bat saliva on your pet is indeed remote. However, I would rather you take extra precautions now than have extra regret later.
Other professionals you should contact would include your local Health Department or your state's Department of Public Health.
Bats are truly remarkable creatures. And with greater respect and understanding, more people will see bats as a valuable part of our ecosystem rather than a prop in a horror movie.
BAT HOUSE BASICS: Click here to learn more!
Massachusetts DFW booklet on bats click here to download pdf prepare for long download 4.67 Mg.
For more information click
here to go to the Center for Disease Control's website
Disclaimer: WDC seeks to provide accurate, effective and responsible information on resolving human/wildlife conflicts. We welcome suggestions, criticisms to help us achieve this goal. The information provided is for informational purposes only and users of the information use it at their own risk. The reader must consult state/federal officials to determine the legality of any technique in the reader's locale. Some techniques are dangerous to the user and to others. WDC encourages readers to obtain appropriate training (see our informational literature at our Store ), and understand that proper animal damage control involves patience, understanding that not every technique/method works for every situation or even 100% of the time. Your use of this information is governed by this understanding. We welcome potential users of the information and photos to simply ask for permission via e-mail. Finally, WDC welcomes e-mail but understand that all e-mails become property of Wildlife Damage Control.