Every family has stories that have become a part of their folklore. In ours, there’s the tale of the night that my brother Michael flew. It started on a quiet evening when Michael was six years old.
The rest of us were playing a game of Scrabble around the kitchen table when we heard an earsplitting scream from his bedroom upstairs. We were just in time to see him literally fly down the stairs without touching a single step on the way down. He just babbled that ‘he’ was in the hall upstairs.
”He’ turned out to be a small, furry brown bat that had somehow got trapped in the house. My mother refused to climb the stairs to deal with the little intruder. My father declared that it was a problem left to Animal Control and wandered off to make a phone call. My grandmother, a tiny Italian woman who ruled the house with an iron fist, snorted in disgust and stalked up the stairs armed with a kitchen dishtowel and an empty coffee can.
I gathered every bit of bravery I could summon and crept to the top of the stairs to peep around the corner as Nana did battle with the bat. The little creature, probably terrified by Michael’s screams, was clinging to the top of a doorframe. Nana approached, tossed the kitchen towel up over it, and when the bat fell to the floor, she gathered the edges of the towel together and stuffed the entire thing into the coffee can. Outside, she simply pulled the towel out of the can and flapped it to free the bat and let it fly away.
According to experts in wildlife removal, the only mistake my grandmother made was in not protecting herself from bites. If you should find yourself facing a bat trapped in your house,
they recommend the following steps to remove it:
- The first rule is to stay calm. Bats have an undeservedly evil reputation. In reality, they will not fly into your face or attempt to tangle in your hair. If frightened, though, they may blunder into you in their frantic efforts to escape.
- Confine the bat to one room by closing any interior doors from the room that the bat is in. Open windows or doors that lead out of the house, and make sure that they can see the exits by turning on lights. Yes, blind as a bat is another of those falsehoods about bats. They can see just fine in the light, and will, given time, find their way out of the room and back out of doors.
- In some cases, it may be necessary to capture the bat. If the bat appears sick or injured, or if it is found in a room with an unattended child, or sleeping or intoxicated adult, the bat should be examined by experts at your local Board of Health or Humane Society. If the bat is not caught and examined, it may be necessary to treat anyone who came into contact with the bat with rabies post-exposure precautions. An examination can rule out rabies or other diseases and spare everyone the discomfort.
If you need to catch the bat, there are two recommended methods. For either, you should first don heavy work gloves to protect yourself from bites. While bats are not naturally aggressive, they WILL bite to protect themselves if they feel threatened.
Method 1: If the bat has landed somewhere that you can reach, you can easily place a small box or coffee can over the resting bat. Once the bat is covered, slide a piece of cardboard between the coffee can and wall or tabletop, trapping it inside. If you’re certain that the bat hasn’t bitten or scratched anyone, you can take it outside and release it.
Method 2: If the bat is flying around the room, or has come to rest on a high window or door edge, use a butterfly net or soft, thick towel to capture and entangle it. Do NOT use a fishing net, which has larger meshes, and a heavier edge which may injure the bat. Because bats must drop down to launch themselves into flight, you can do exactly as my grandmother did – toss the towel straight up into the air beneath where the bat is resting. It will drop right down into it. Again, once you’ve captured the bat, you can release it outdoors if you’re certain that it hasn’t come into contact with anyone.
If there’s a chance or certainty that the bat has come into contact with someone, you should call the local Animal Control office or Board of Health. They’ll come collect the bat, or instruct you on where to bring it for testing. They’ll also instruct you on where to go for post-exposure rabies treatment.
What if you have an entire colony of bats living in your belfry?
If you frequently have bats in your house, you may have a colony nesting in your attic or chimney. As their natural habitats are encroached upon, bats are increasingly taking to nesting in houses and buildings. Often, the first indication that bats are nesting in your home is the noise – baby bats are noisy little squeakers when mama is away. You may also hear scratching in the walls or overhead.
According to experts, the only way to remove a colony of bats from your home is by ‘excluding’ them – blocking off their entry points into the home. There are many professional companies that specialize in pest control who can do it properly, but if you choose to do it yourself, you can follow the instructions below.
CAUTION: Time of year is very important. Bats should never be excluded between mid-April and mid-August. Those months are nesting months. If you exclude nesting mothers, you’ll be trapping the flightless younger bats inside to starve to death – an extremely inhumane thing to do. In addition, you may end up with an unhealthy and very smelly situation as the bodies begin to decay.
- Locate all entry points into your house that bats may be using. You may be able to locate the main entry point by watching closely at sunset to see where bats are entering. You can also closely examine the house for dark stains caused by bat guano and urine around entry points.
- Seal off all entry points with one-way exclusion gates. You can make a simple one with structural grade 1/2″ bird netting. Using duct tape, hang the netting several inches above the entry point and allow it to hang free at the bottom by several inches. Bats will be able to leave by dropping down but will be unable to reenter.
- Once you’re certain that all bats have left the building, you can seal off the cracks and entry points more permanently.
Remember, do not use exclusion during the nesting season. For further information on ridding your home of bats, contact your local Animal Control office or pest control professionals. No one should have to live with bats in their belfry.