Thursday, July 19, 2012

From rats to bats

You may recall our unhappy little run-in with rats at the last house (note to self: do not feed the birds black oil sunflower ever again!) and how difficult it was for us to shake those critters.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, the kid and I were shocked to find a bat hanging on the living room curtain one morning. Yes, inside the living room. In our new home. I went to open the curtains, looked up to the top of them, and proceeded to shriek like a banshee. There, gazing back at me, was what appeared to be a bat. My son noticed I was behaving oddly and I asked him to confirm that, indeed, there was a bat atop the curtain... and yes, he agreed shakily, that was a bat.

We ducked lower than normal and ran to get out of PJs and into real clothing—because we wanted to be properly dressed when we hurriedly met some new neighbors (preferably someone with testosterone, thus all the better to assist us in removing said bats). After a couple of strikeouts (no one home), we lucked out three doors down the street with a poor fellow who was just preparing to enjoy his day off. He was less than enthusiastic about helping us evict the visitors, but tried to put on a brave face and marched back to our house with us.

To make a long story short, one bat had become two bats by the time we came back into the house, and in the process of trapping those bats behind a large fishing net against the curtain and carrying them outside, they morphed yet again into three bats... one of which appeared to be smaller. I'm not sure the small one could fly yet; apparently, it had been clinging to one of the other, larger bats.

We prodded the bats with broomsticks (as gently as possible, to get them off the curtain) and then watched them crawl across the grass and climb up the side of our house to a shady spot behind the gas meter. They can't walk, you see; they move by this strange, awkward but oddly quick gate on the "fingers" of their wings. It's both repulsive and fascinating. Then we began trying to discern the point of entry. (We think they sneaked in around a huge gap in our side storm door. That'll need replacing. Even if that isn't where they entered, it still needs some serious work.)

(And oh, by the way, my husband watched 12 of them exit the unprotected, unscreened attic vent the other night on their way out to feast on bugs. Which, granted, is a good thing. I know they do good work. I know. Still... not sharing the house permanently with them. Sorry.)

We've been doing a lot of research since then. Did you know that bats are protected here in western PA? That you can't hire anyone to eradicate them? That while you are encouraged to not let them live in your attic, since their guano is toxic, technically you're breaking the law if you kill them? And also, that since June and July are typically when the moms are nursing their "pups" (no kidding, that's what they're called) that you're not advised to kick them out because the babies can't fly yet and will be trapped inside your home to die... all while the frantic mommy bat flies crazily around, seeking any entry into your home to save her baby? (Did I mention that they can squeeze through holes about as big as a dime?)

So, yes, we have some house guests for a few more days... just to ensure that the babies are flying and we won't wreck any families. And then, somehow, when those babes are definitely airborne, we'll get them out. There are humane ways (one-way exits shaped like giant net stockings, basically) and we'll try that, I suppose. The clean-up? We might have to call a professional. All the scary discussions online about the poison poo, the respiratory infections it causes, and the inevitable bat mites that linger after the eviction have frankly got me rather spooked.

I never thought that I'd have to permit and share space with these squatters who lived in our home before we did. Nor did I ever expect that my rights would fall secondarily to theirs... or at least it feels that way.


Facie said...

Wow. Good timing, I suppose with the premiere of the new Batman movie (filmed here)!

Wait, so the bats are out of the house right?! I had no idea bats were protected. I think Bri would have taken care of them first and asked questions later.

Mel said...

The bats are still in the attic, which is separate from our living quarters... they haven't been back in our living room. I still glance around me with trepidation, though... that's a sight I'll remember for longer than I choose to!

(Todd has announced that if any others enter the house, they'll meet their squashed doom. The helpful neighbor offered the same service, as well, but I had him hold off... they weren't hurting us or even doing anything, after all... not sure I'd be so nice now that I know there are at least 12 of them up there... but I don't want to orphan and starve any babies.)

Athelas63 said...

Don't kill them! They ARE protected and being attacked by a terrible disease - white nose fungus or something. It basically smothers them to death over time. Be patient, and when the little ones are gone, board up the holes.

Mel said...

yes, I'd heard about that fungus... not good. esp. when you consider how bats help our ecosystem. like the disappearing honey bees—big concerns, both. I won't kill them (I'm too chicken) and as long as they stay out of our living quarters, it's not a big deal, honestly. we are waiting. BUT as soon as we've closed every possible opening, their little front door is getting the one-way-out treatment. there's a fellow with a bat house on his chimney right next door, and it's empty and waiting... plus even though only about 1% carry rabies, no one knows which ones, so if by chance you are bitten, you have to catch the thing or assume it's infected and go through the painful, expensive shots... there has to be a peaceful ending where they aren't living in the attic right above my son's room. not cool.

chris h. said...

Oh, I can so relate based on our own and other friends' up close and personal bat encounters. I feel for ya. (Curious how kitty reacted -- kitty was how we "found" ours.)