Bats - Problems They Cause, Methods of Removal and Prevention: Bats are exceptional creatures and a quintessential part of the health of any biome that supports them. No matter where in the world bats live – and they live everywhere except for some secluded oceanic islands and the Polar Regions – these flying mammals either act as great insect control or as key pollinators. US bats are nocturnal and will use their bio sonar to echolocate their food and to navigate while they're hunting, or just when going from one place to another. Bats are remarkable and useful, but that doesn't mean they aren't considered a pest. And while there are so many myths in what concerns bats, there are some real issues to consider if bats have either moved on your property, if you perform physical labor that involves digging through or turning over soil in areas abundant with bat guano, or if you live near such areas that are endemic to histoplasmosis.
Problems bats may cause
The first concern that comes with nuisance animals that either have no option than to invade human structures in order to survive, or that have it so well among people that there can't be any possible better alternative for them to consider is disease. And while bats can carry diseases, it's important to know that they're not the horrific carriers of rabies they are made out to be. In fact, studies show that less than 5% of sick bats actually have rabies. Oh, and bats do not – I repeat, do not – get stuck in your hair or fly in your room to suck your blood at night, so there's no chance of you contracting rabies from a sick bat if you don't pick it up with your hand and allow it to bite you. If a bat flies into your home and gets stuck inside, there's little to no chance of that bat being sick and biting you without you noticing it. In spite of that, I can't claim to be a trustworthy source for wildlife problems and how to deal with them if I were to say that you shouldn't worry about rabies and take measures accordingly. I wouldn't worry in this scenario, but it's your health, so I recommend you do what you think is needed to be done, even if that means getting an unnecessary vaccine.
On the other side, bats can be infected and transmit a fungal disease called histoplasmosis. If you're dealing with a couple of bats on your property or inside your home, histoplasmosis is not something to worry about, but if it's a bat colony we're talking about, the large amounts of guano they produce may be a problem. Both diseases I've mentioned are treatable, but can be fatal if the symptoms are ignored and left untreated.
Other problems a bat colony may cause are also related to their excrements. If a bat maternity colony has settled in your attic – which is most often the case when bat invasion is in discussion – they will also produce waste in your attic. The sheer weight of large quantities of guano can cause the attic floor to collapse. Guano smell is also a major issue.
Methods of removal and prevention
It's best to begin by saying that bat maternity colonies are almost always under state or county protection, and it will be illegal for you to interfere with a colony during maternity season. Depending on the US bat species in questions, maternity season lasts from three to four months, and will start either in April, May or June. If a bat colony has occupied space on your property during this time of year, the best thing you can do is to let them be. Once the young are able to fend for themselves the colony will probably disperse, although it's possible that they might choose to take permanent residence. No matter the case, when maternity season is over is when you need to take action: removal, decontamination and home repair so that the bats can't come back next year. Lethal methods of disposal are not recommended, nor are they legal, so live exclusion is the way to go. Removing bat colonies requires experience and intensive training – I'm sorry, but there's no way around it. Any seasoned wildlife remover will be able to assist you with methods and tips on getting rid of a bat colony, but I haven't yet seen in all my years of work in the field an untrained homeowner who was successful in excluding a bat colony from a place the bats lived in year-round.
Excluding bats from chimneys may sound easier than excluding them from attics, but surprise, surprise, this also takes lots of knowledge and training. You might think that the bats are getting in through the top chimney hole, but that's actually not common bat behavior and is rarely the case. Ensuring the damper is shut so that the bats can't get inside your home, and calling a wildlife control pro to assist you with the problem is your best course of action here, no doubt about it.
If one or a couple of bats have accidently flown inside your home, your first option should be to close all entry/exit points except one that leads to the exterior, then leave the room and wait for the bats to find their way out. If too much time has passed and the bats are still inside, you can try and catch them one at a time by throwing a blanket over them – although this method can harm the fragile bones bats have in their wings – or you can try and gently catch them with a butterfly net. You can also try and pick them up with your hand, but you need to wear thick protective gloves and make sure the bat can't bite or scratch you. Another option would be to use a plastic container or something of the sort, and gently place it over the bat. The bat will be stuck between the surface it was sitting on and the container. You can then insert a piece of paper between the surface and the container, and bring the whole thing outside where you can release the bat.
Bat prevention is meticulous work, and it involves inspection and repair. Might not sound like a tough job, but remember that bats can and will get through openings as small of 3/8 of an inch, so an expert eye is needed when it comes to points of access identification. Also, you need to know what you're doing, and be secure enough on your feet to work in awkward positions from the top of a ladder, or be confident enough in your dexterity and fast reflexes to work standing directly on the surface of the roof, in a horizontal position. In most cases, repairs need to be done from both the roof and from a ladder.
Successful removal of bat colonies from homes or commercial and apartment buildings, which includes prevention, should be left in the hands of experienced professionals who know what they're doing so that there's no risk for mistakes or omissions that will later result in all other removal efforts being futile.
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