Monday, August 19, 2013

Like a bat out house

My children are truly wonderful young people and not particularly given to shrieks of panic.  So when all three screamed in unison this evening I took it seriously.  The cause of the hysteria was a large bat flying around the living room.  I had been working on the driveway and closed the garage doors when I was finished.  Evidently, the bat had flown through the garage and up from the basement into the house...where my children were waiting.

I suppose I could have called animal control and had them show up when they could.  They might search the house or use their knowledge and experience to come up with a solution? More likely they'd polietly tell me to grow up and open the doors.  Instead I decided to deal with the problem myself based on the potentially flawed logic that a reasonably well informed biologist could take care of a biological problem.  So I gathered my children in a bat-free room, closed the door and set to work.

The bat had come to rest in curtains and when I approached to open the windows he or she took a bat out of...curtains?  As the bat flew in rapid circles I grabbed a tall narrow trash can and a lid.  I turned on all of the lights in the house to more easily track the bat, it's shadow, or reflection from room to room.  A second landing in a different curtain lead to a failed attempted capture.  After flying around the living room for at least 10 minutes he started to explore the rest of the house and found his way upstairs.  I closed as many bedroom doors as I could to narrow the options for both of us.

As I approached the only remaining bedroom door, the scared and exhausted bat came to rest on the top of the door frame - perfect!  Somewhere back in my lizard brain I remembered that bats need to drop to take flight so a container underneath seemed like a reasonable solution.  I brought the trashcan up underneath the bat and as soon as the rim made contact with the door frame the bat obligingly dropped in an attempt to fly once more.  I popped the lid on top.  As efficiently as I could, I brought can/lid/bat down stairs and out the front door.  I dumped the worn out bat on the grass near a tree and gave him all the space he could wish for.

So what take-home message should there be?  It's worth remembering that bats like any scared animal can bite and they do carry rabies.  Bat populations are dwindling in parts of the United States and Canada because of white-nose syndrome.  Avoiding direct contact by trying to kill a bat is good; releasing a live bat to consume lots of insect pests is good also.  The Humane Society offers advice on dealing with trapped bats. One piece that differed from my approach was to tilt the container towards a tree trunk so that the bat can climb high enough to drop and fly....good advice for the next time.  They also recommend thick gloves.  And if you are bitten??  Get medical treatment as soon as possible; untreated rabies is fatal.

Bat image is from Wikimedia Commons.

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