What Attracts Bats to Your Property?
Bats, like most animals, follow the path of least resistance. They flourish in areas abundant in food, shelter, and the absence of predators. If you live in an area that is uniquely habitable for any particular species of bat, don’t be surprised if they try and move in.
Bats usually roost in dark, quiet, enclosed spaces where they are least likely to be disturbed by predators or inclement weather. Their natural habitats are caves and other such secluded areas and this is why your barn, shed or attic can be so attractive to a bat in search of safety. Some species are less picky and will roost in trees and dense foliage.
Bats roost for three reasons:
1. To digest the night’s meal: After a long night of feeding, it’s not uncommon to spot a lone bat hanging from an awning or off a tree as it digests the night’s catch. Technically this is resting, not ‘roosting’.
2. Hibernation: During the colder months, depending on your geographic location, bats will seek out secluded spaces with stable conditions to hibernate and wait out the cold season. They often roost in groups and make use of each other’s body heat to keep one another warm.
3. Breeding: Bats will choose protected environments for the creation of nursery colonies. Nursery colonies are where female bats nurse their babies to self-sufficiency. It’s common for several hundred mother bats to share the same roost with each other creating a ‘colony’ of babies and mothers. Maternity season for bats in the United States and Canada is usually from late April to late August.
Bats can fit into openings as small as 1/23 making almost every man-made structure a virtual smorgasbord of potential hiding places. Some of the places that bats have been found in man-made structures include but are not limited to:
* Storage sheds
* Unused and open structures (Dog houses, stables, etc)
* Roof tiles and shingles
* Behind shutters
3. What to do if You Encounter a Bat
Bats are relatively timid creatures that normally go out of their way to avoid contact with humans. This is why you should be extremely careful if you encounter one up close and personal. Less than 1/2 of a percent of bats carry rabies, but those that do are more likely to become sick or disoriented increasing their likelihood of coming into contact with someone. Of the few rabies cases reported each year in the U.S., over half of them are caused by bat bites, so be very cautious when in close proximity and do not handle the bat with bare hands.
Bat bites aren’t always noticeable, they usually aren’t very painful so it’s possible for somebody to get bitten while they are sleeping or otherwise distracted. If you or anyone in your household has been exposed to a bat and you aren’t 100% sure that they weren’t bitten, it should be captured and brought with you to your doctor to be tested for rabies. This is especially important in the case of a child who is found with a bat as they may not admit to getting bitten or understand the potential risk. Don’t panic – rabies is still extremely rare, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
Getting a Bat Out of Your House
If a bat wanders into your home through an open door or window, the best way to usher it out is to seal it off from the rest of the house by closing the doors to adjacent rooms and opening all of the windows in the room in which it resides. Just give it a few hours and it will usually leave all by itself. If it decides to stick around or you simply don’t have the patience to wait for it to leave, you can capture the bat and release it outside.
How to Capture a Bat
If you find yourself in a situation where you must capture a bat to either bring it to your doctor or release it outside of your home, the most important thing to remember is not to handle it with your bare hands. If you’re not particularly squeamish around bats then you can dawn a pair of heavy work gloves and use them to grab it and transport it out doors. A more agreeable method to those who would rather not get so close would be to take a small container such as a coffee can or shoebox, place it over the bat, and then slide a rigid piece of cardboard underneath to trap it in the container. You can then open the container outside to free the bat, or tape it shut (don’t forget air-holes) and bring it with you to your doctor if somebody may have been bitten.
4. Getting Rid of Bats in Structures
Before we begin the process of removing them from your property, you should check your local ordinances as it is illegal to disturb roosts, trap and/or kill bats in many areas. This guide will not tell you how to kill bats, but it will tell you how to get rid of them.
5. Where Are They Roosting?
If you’ve got bats living on your property and you want them out, the first thing you need to do is determine where they are roosting. Grab a chair and sit outside a few evenings with an eye to the sky. Are they in the trees? Around your house? Your neighbors houses? Make a list of every place they may be roosting based on your observation.
The next step is to go out during the day and examine closely all of the structures you’ve identified as possible roosting areas. Make a list of every opening larger than 1/23 in diameter and keep an eye out for telltale signs of bat habitation. You may notice dark, pellet-like droppings on walls and around areas where they roost as well as dark smudges and stains in places which they come into direct contact.