LOGAN – Bats have been in the news lately, both internationally and locally.
While scientists and politicians debate the origins of COVID-19, locally Division of Wildlife Resources said they are getting calls about bats in people’s homes in northern Utah.
Faith Jolly, public information officer for DWR, said most Utahns probably don’t correlate bats with summer, but you shouldn’t be too surprised if you find one in your home this time of year.
“Utahns may see more bats this time of year because the baby bats (also called pups) are learning to fly and leaving their roost for the first time,” she said. “There are currently 18 confirmed bat species in Utah, but there may be more.”
Bats found in homes are generally maternity colonies of female bats and their babies. The females typically come out of hibernation and take up residence in a structure to give birth, usually in May or June. Most of the bats are about the size of a mouse.
“They then have their babies and begin to increase their activity to support lactation — this is typically when people begin to notice the bats,” Jolley said. “The young are also becoming more active and starting to fly, which also draws more attention.”
Kimberly Hersey, DWR Mammal Conservation Coordinator, said encounters with bats seem to spike in September as the migratory species, especially the Mexican free-tailed bat, move around the state.
“This time frame is the hardest time of year for dealing with bat nuisance issues,” Hersey said. “Since the young can’t fly yet and are reliant on their mother’s milk, preventing the mothers from returning to their roosting spot will kill the babies. Because bats are a protected wildlife species, it’s illegal to kill them.”
Dr Nicki Frey, a bat expert who works as a human wildlife conflict specialist for Utah State University Extension, said she’s already received a couple calls from Cache Valley residents about bats in and around their homes.
“They don’t want to hurt them, they are looking for a kind way to keep the bats away,” she said. “They are trying the to find the most humane way to remove the bats.”
She said the young bats are developing and finding places to roost. She received a call from someone who had a crack between her chimney and her exterior wall; the bats had squeezed in there and the person was worried about them getting into her attic.
“I had some bats living in my house once, they lived between siding and the walls,” Frey said. “They were roosting there, but it wasn’t a large enough group to cause problems.”
When someone sees a large mound of droppings around their house, they have legitimate cause for concern. Fungal diseases abound anytime there is fecal accumulation. That can create a problem.
“We don’t we don’t want people chasing them away. I would like them to come up with an alternative place to live first,” she said. “People with bat problems should call DWR or a pest management specialist to have them removed.”
There are several ways to remove bats and different bat traps can help as well. When anyone handles a bat, they should have on thick leather gloves to prevent them from being bit.
“Bats do carry rabies most of the time, but when they are flying around there is no cause for concern unless they are found in a baby’s room or a room where someone can’t communicate,” she said. “In those situations, they should get medical attention immediately.”
If there is bat in the house, they usually fly near the ceiling and windows trying to get outside.
“When a bat is in the house it is safer for humans than for the bat,” she said. ”If the bat makes contact with anyone, they should go to the doctor and be checked out.”
Frey said bats are beneficial to the environment. They are voracious bug eaters and they have a strong ecological purpose.
“They are pretty amazing. In general, they have been given a bad rap,” Frey said. “There are health issues, but it is not as bad as people think.”
“We also need to recognize there are times we don’t want bats around,” she said.
Dr. Adam Brewerton, also with USU extension, goes around trapping bats and installing bat boxes to catch them and move them to a different place, especially when they are roosting.
Brewerton finds a different place to move them where they won’t bother people. They have found thousands of suitable homes for bats.
DWR suggests the following when bats are discover inside a house:
- Because bats can be carriers of rabies, a deadly virus that can be transmitted to people, you should never handle a bat with your bare hands. And if you have physical contact with a bat, contact your local health department for guidance.
- If you find a bat inside your home, open a door or window, turn off the lights inside your house and turn on a porch light outside. Leave the room and allow the bat to leave on its own.
- If the bat does not make its way outside on its own, you can carefully remove it.
- Wearing heavy leather gloves, place a small box or can over the bat. To create a lid, slide a piece of cardboard between the can and the wall or curtain, enclosing the bat inside the container. Then take the bat outside and release the bat on a tree or other high object.
DWR suggests the following for preventing bats from roosting in an attic:
- Cool your attic with fans to make it uncomfortable for bats to take up residence.
- Inspect the outside of the building for openings and gaps in siding, chimneys and roof lines.
- Seal cracks and holes with caulking, hardware cloth, foam rubber, foam sealant, tar paper and chimney caps. Do not do this, however, when bats have pups in May through August. Fall is the best time to seal these openings when bats are vacating roosts.
- You can also use bird netting to place over an opening. Staple it down at the top and the sides, leaving the base open. Bats will be able to drop down the netting to leave, but not reenter the roost. Leave it in place for four to five days or until all the bats have left, then seal the holes.