Spring in Midtown…and it’s bat season

Ah, spring in Midtown. A whoosh heard at night, a black blur flies over your bed and your wife dives under covers and screams, “do something.” Bat season has begun. We have some tips on what to do if bats invade your house.

Bats are part of springtime in Midtown. They’re getting active and will sometimes get stuck inside homes, especially old houses with many access points. But what do you do?

A bat can enter through a hole the diameter of a pencil and go room-to-room beneath closed doors. Sometimes colonies of them live year-round in attics, walls or eves.

Debra Burns, wildlife regional supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation, did her master’s thesis on bats but says even she would remove one from her home.

“Try not to hurt the bat, but I understand peoples’ reaction in having bats in their house,” she said.

But in reality, bats are not easily scooped into boxes and generally hide when not flying. People in the Valentine neighborhood have attacked them with tennis rackets or delegated the matter to their cats, neither humane nor recommended methods.

There is also the rabies danger, which is remote but one case of very bad luck can be your last. In Missouri last year, 16 out of 565 bats tested were positive for rabies.

Burns said local animal control agencies will send bats to the state to be tested only if a bite or bat-to-skin contact is involved. People can also have them tested through a vet but have to pay for it. In both cases, it can take weeks to get test results back, she said, and officials often recommend people start rabies shots while waiting.

These days the series of shots are in the arm and backside instead of the stomach. So if you find a dead bat in the house, she said, “best to put it in the trash, taking all precautions and not touching it.”

She added: “The main thing, if you have one bat in your house, is checking to see if you have more than one.”

You might start by sitting on the porch at sunset to see if a colony of bats streams out of your home to go feed on insects.

If they do have a colony, most people hire a pest control company. The firms will generally seal entrances and put in an exit door that allows bats to leave but not come back in.

But most companies won’t do that until August, after the spring and summer bat birthing season. That’s because the mothers and babies left inside will get trapped and die, or make desperate escape attempts. “Sometimes when you close it up and there are still bats up there they find other ways to get out – into the house,” Burns said.

As for the types of bats in Midtown, those in houses are most likely big brown bats, little brown bats or evening bats, she said. There are also bats called eastern pipistrelle that like to live outside of houses on things like shutters, she said.

There is also the red bat, she said. “They basically blend in with the leaves and hang from trees.” Their babies cling to them and sometimes after big storms people find dislodged baby bats on the ground under trees. Don’t handle them without gloves.

And while bats may not be cuddly, Burns said, “they play a vital role in our environment as far as eating insects and agricultural pests.”

More information

Bat Conservation International

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