Experts give advice on how to handle wayward bats

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The humane removal of a bat colony is almost always a job for professionals.

It's the season to watch out for young bats, says the Humane Society of the United States. You can help them if they get lost in your house, where they may have been raised in an attic. At this time of year, they're trying to make their way into the outside world.

When there's one bat on the loose inside the house, local animal care and control agencies usually respond with immediate help. But homeowners may capture the bat themselves by placing a container, such as a plastic food storage container, over the bat when it is at rest, then sliding on the lid.

What do you do when a bat suddenly flies out of a closet and is darting around the room?

First, remember it isn't diving at you. It's trying to get outside using echolocation and can't really see much, said John Hadidian, the society's Washington, D.C.-based director of wildlife programs.

"First you close the closet doors so the bat doesn't go back in there, and get any pets out of the room," Hadidian said. A bat will tend to fly from wall to wall to orient itself. "Stand near a wall and watch. The bat will fly for a brief period and soon settle down again." That's when you can go ahead with your container capture.

John Griffin, director of the society's Wild Neighbors: Humane Wildlife Solutions emphasized that you should use leather gloves to do this. Never handle a bat with bare hands or cotton gloves. Release the bat outside up on a tree limb or wall, since bats can't fly from the ground up.

If there's any chance the bat was in the room of a sleeping or intoxicated person or young child, health authorities mandate that the bat be captured and tested for rabies, on the slim chance it could have bitten someone without their knowing it.

The humane removal of a bat colony is almost always a job for professionals, who put in place netting that lets bats out but not back in.

The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program describes itself as promoting nonlethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife and cultivating understanding and appreciation for wild animals commonly found in cities and towns.

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