Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bats in the Belfry

Okay, okay, when I was wishing for a fresh start with September I should have specified that I didn't want coyotes at 4:30 am or a bat in the house at 5 am.

This morning, the first of September, we woke up being serenaded by a pack of deranged banshees. It's the second or third morning in a row that I think I've heard the coyotes, but I wasn't fully awake the previous mornings to confirm that yes, that unearthly howling was indeed Canis latrans. Several of them, in fact. Steve and I mumbled something about country life and were on the verge of falling asleep when a weird whiffling noise began swooping about in the air above the bed.

"Uh Steve?"

"What is that?"

"There's something in the room."

"A moth?" Steve suggested hopefully.

By then I knew exactly what it was but didn't want to say it in a way that might encourage panic. "Nooooooo, I don't think so. I think it might be a bat."

Being nearsighted as a bat myself, I was reaching for my glasses on the nightstand when Steve said he saw the creature. "There's something swooping outside the screen door. It's outside."

"Are you sure?" I could have sworn that the soft whuff-twhup-whuff-twhup noise of bat wings had been right above my head.
"Yeah. There it is again."

Reassured, I stop reaching for my glasses and laid on my stomach, hoping to catch some more sleep before having to get up for the day. Silence, and then whuff-twhup-whuff-twhup filled the air again.

You can only imagine the panic that ensued. "Bat! Bat in the house! It's inside! Grab the dog! How'd it get inside? Bat! Out! Get out of the bedroom! Out! Out! Now!"

Steve scooped up Oscar and we hurried into the living room, shutting the bedroom door behind us. We stood in the kitchen and discussed what to do next. I convinced Steve to just open the screen door that leads from the bedroom to the back deck and let the bat find its own way outside. There was no sign of a bat in the room when I checked it an hour later.

And then we heard later that there was another aftershock measuring 3.4 in magnitude outside of Mineral, VA, this morning at 5:09 am. That was probably just us trying to get the hell out of the bedroom before the bat escaped into the rest of the house. Or maybe the coyotes were trying to warn us of an impending earthquake and that's what all that howling and yodeling was about at 4:30 am. Who knew they would be so thoughtful?

So before anyone can start asking about the R word, yes, I'm aware that bats can carry rabies. Some people advise that any bat found in the house should automatically be tested for rabies. We probably would have if we had actually caught the thing, just to be on the safe side, but the mere presence of a bat in the house does not signify that it was rabid. The bat was acting perfectly normal for a bat that wandered inside a house. We were not attacked and we have no bite marks on our bodies.

As of August 11, 2011, there were a total of 391 confirmed cases of rabies among tested animals in Virginia, according to the Virginia Health Department's website. Of those confirmed cases, 16 of the tested animals (or 4.09%) were bats. (In comparison, raccoons, skunks, and foxes represented 48%, 25%, and 14% of the cases respectively reported in 2011 as of August 11.) Other potential health problems associated with bats include histoplasmosis and bat bugs, but in reality, I probably took a greater risk to life and limb by driving my car through Radford this morning.

How did the bat get inside the house? We're not exactly sure, but Steve did discover a gap under the fascia boards above the bathroom window which might have been the entry point. It's now thoroughly caulked up.

Are we letting Sugar Booger 1 and 2 still roost outside?


Yes. I like bats and I'm comfortable with them roosting under the eaves outside as long as we don't have more than 2-3 out there.

Are we going to bat proof the house? Yes, as much as possible. I don't want a colony living inside the house. But bat proofing is really just an ongoing maintenance job that began last fall when we decided that we didn't want the mice and flying insects spending the winter with us.

Are we hiring a professional company to do any of this?


Um, apparently not. (I should point out that this jerry rigged bat barrier is only temporary and not a permanent solution. On the other hand, MacGyver would have been proud even if this temporary fix does not involve the use of a gum wrapper.)

What will we do if we find another bat in the house tonight? Probably panic.


Evelyn Weddle said...

I hope this home improvement project doesn't start at 3:00 on a Sunday...and doesn't require a chainsaw like the toilet replacement did.

Roberta said...

Glad you survived! :) We had bats in the our house several times when I was a kid. Never really worried too much about how they got in, but then it wasn't really my problem! LOL But I wasn't really thrilled when I was about 12 and found one in the toilet! It had apparently flown in there and accidentally knocked the lid shut. Boy was that a surprise!! I've pretty much always checked toilets before I use them since then, but never found another bat! :)