The Coulee Region Humane Society receives many calls regarding bats in any given season of the year. The most important advice we have to give is DO NOT HANDLE BATS WITH BARE HANDS and do not attempt to rehabilitate any bats on your own. Like most mammals, bats can contract rabies and do pose a credible threat to the health and well-being of people who are bitten or are suspected of coming in direct contact with the bat’s saliva. If you or somebody you know has been bitten by a bat and live in La Crosse County call Animal Control @781-4014 (24 hrs. a day) immediately for advice. With that said, let’s try to educate you on bat behavior and look at ways to deter bats from your home.
Bats are probably the most misunderstood animal in the Coulee Region. Folklore will have you believe that bats seek out people to become entangled in their hair or that bats are in a home to attack or bite people as popularized by vampire themes. Here are more reasonable behavioral matters to consider:
Bats are not known to indiscriminately attack people. The bats in our area do not feed on blood, but rather on insects. A bat’s high metabolism requires them to eat hundreds of insects daily to thrive. Bats provide a valuable service in consuming many insects during the summer months.
Bats tend to swoop inside rooms as it is a normal part of their flight o make loops. They fly higher at the short end of the loop and lower in the longer part giving the impression that they are swooping at people when they are really just flying and looking for a way out.
Generally, bats are nocturnal, however, they can be found during daylight hours hanging around in unusual places. It is common to find them hanging upside-down on a wall or some other surface within a building. Seeing a bat during the day does not necessarily mean the animal is sick or that something is wrong. It may be where it is by the bat’s own choice.
Bats squeak, hiss, or chirp when approached. This noise is not a warning of attack, but rather an alarm to let you know it is there and that the bat is concerned about the situation.
Bats do not cause property damage by chewing holes. They take advantage of existing circumstances and take up residence in crevices, cracks, or holes already in place.
What to Do If You Find a Bat in Your House or Building
When a bat gets trapped in your house - it is likely by mistake. It is believed that a bat in a home has taken a left turn inward by mistake when it should have taken a right turn to the outdoors. They appear confused when confined indoors and are looking for a way out. Here are some tips on what to do to help the bat reach the outdoors:
If the bat is flying around, immediately open doors and windows to allow it free access to the outdoors. Also, close doors to bathrooms, bedrooms, and any other room into which the bat could possibly fly. Your goal is to reduce its options and “herd” it out the door or window. People often ask, “Won’t more come in?” It is unlikely more bats will fly in through the opened doors or windows. Remember, they are trying to get out.
If the bat has landed on a wall or some other surface you have several options, and remember to approach quickly and quietly and be gentle.
1. You may catch it using a pair of thick leather gloves and release it outside. You want to make sure the bat cannot bite you through the glove material.Use thick leather gloves used for gardening and working with thorny plants such as roses. Do not use simple driving gloves or the knitted kind, the bat’s teeth may still penetrate such material.
2. You can use a thick towel that is folded a couple of times to gently gather up the bat but still use a gloveand a glove to protect you from being bitten. Once the bat is gathered take the towel (with the bat gathered in it) outside and toss it up in the air encouraging the bat to fly. You may also place the towel on or in a bush or shrub and the bat should fly away after a fewminutes to reorient itself. (Note: Bats have a difficult time taking off for flight from the ground. They are designed to drop into flight and areextremely vulnerable and stressed on the ground.) as bats can be quick and unpredictable when handled. Use the towel
3. You can also catch a bat by placing a coffee can, shoebox, or small waste can over the bat. Then, using a piece of cardboard, gently slide the cardboard between the can or box and the surface the bat is on, thus trapping the bat within. Turn the container right side up and keep the cardboard over the opening as a lid. Take the container with the bat inside outdoors and release the bat. During cold weather call Animal Control at 781-4014 for advice on releasing bats.
*Note: You may release bats any time, however, it is best to do so under the cover of darkness. Should you need to release them duringdaylight hours please place them in a darkened area, under cover, in a dense shrub, or in the crotch of a tree out of a predator’s reach and away from a child’s play area, pet’s kennel area, and any other high traffic area.
Animal Control does catch and release bats as a service per contract to the cities of La Crosse and Onalaska residents. This service is not available to other municipalities or townships. You will need to keep an eye on the bat’s location until an officer can respond to your request for help. During peak times of the year, we receive numerous requests and our response may be delayed. Open windows and doors and attempt to get the bat out. If you are successful and the bat flies outdoors, remember to call Animal Control back and cancel the request.
*Note: Animal Control does not respond to calls of bats inhabiting attic, unfinished basements, porch areas, or bats simply hanging on the exterior of buildings. Callers are welcomed to ask advice in such events.
What to Do if You Find an Injured Bat
Call Animal Control at 781-4014 for instructions. Depending on the circumstances and service area, we may pick up the bat or have you deliver it to the Coulee Region Humane Society’s shelter.
Excluding Bats From Your Home
The most effective way to eliminate a bat’s presence in your home is to exclude them by effectively preventing their access. Bat exclusion, simply put, means to fill in all the holes where bats can get in.
You may locate entrance holes by observing the exterior of your home around dusk and watch where bats go in and out of your house. Look up around soffits, eaves, shutters, peaks, and window trim or where any crevices may be and watch for activity. Once you see activity make a note of it and look further. There may be several points of entry that will need to be investigated. During the day, you can look for bat droppings stuck on the wall of the building or accumulated droppings on the ground outside or on the floor within the residence. The entrance may be located somewhere above the droppings. You may be able to identify a bat entrance by a brown oily stain that coats the surrounding surface of the opening (oils, dirt, and urine rub off the bat at they land and enter the hole).
Once an opening has been located use durable materials to fill in or cover the opening. Hardware cloth, wood, and metal sheeting may be used for larger openings such as broken windows, missing trim, chimneys. Hardware cloth is most appropriate when ventilation or exhaust is a concern. Smaller cracks and crevices can easily be filled with an exterior caulk. Several tubes may be needed. A bat can fit into any crevice approximately ¼ inch wide so, a good rule of thumb is that if air passes through it, so can a bat. In our area caulking all cracks is not only going to keep out bats but winter chills as well. Attempt to complete the work when there is some certainty there are not bats trapped in your buildings walls. There are contractors that will “bat proof” buildings by doing just as we described – check the yellow pages of your local phone book. Other methods of exclusion may be found online by doing a general search under “bat exclusion.”
Other methods of deterring bats are limited in their use or are ineffective all together. Moth balls and ultrasonic devices are generally not effective.
For More Information on Bats
Please visit www.batworld.org for more information and interesting facts about bats.