I’ll admit I’ve thought our two story fixer-upper with its dark, foreboding exterior and dingy trim resembles a haunted house (especially when cobwebs affix themselves to the windows), but a bat cave? Never. My experience with bats heretofore had been limited: Wondering if that lone bird flitting about just after dusk was actually a bat; discovering, in the middle of the day, a small, furry brown creature inverted on the side of a wall. But after my husband and I bought our home in a forested neighborhood, all of that changed–drastically.
Six months after we moved in, I allowed one of our young Siamese cats the privilege of going into the living room, and we noticed something behind the door that looked like a large, dead leaf. When Choco touched it with his paw, the thing squeaked. I snatched up our cat and hurried out of the room.
While I locked Choco and our other cat, Mocha, away from the area, Rick investigated. Coming into the den a minute later, he wore a somber expression. “I believe it’s a bat.”
Donning heavy gloves, he placed the nearly-dead creature in a vented oatmeal container and set it outside. It was the worst possible time for such an occurrence: Eight o’clock on a Sunday night–New Year’s Day.
Rick called our local health department to see if they could test it for rabies, but the person’s attitude was casual. “I don’t know . . . was anyone asleep with it in the room?Sometimes we test a bat if people find it in their bedroom–in case they were bitten in their sleep.”
“Oh . . . what should we do about our cat? He touched it.”
“Has your cat had a rabies shot recently?”
“It’s been a few months.”
“You might want to give him one just to be safe.”
I was relieved that the “experts” felt it was okay, but disappointed that they were so routine about it and offered so little advice. I worried the rest of the evening, wondering if any of us would contract some kind of illness, but we felt better after taking Choco for his shot and talking to the veterinarian. Getting back to our daily routine, we hoped we’d never have any more trouble with bats.
But one year later–New Year’s Day–our cats were anxious to go into the living room. Giving in to them, I again noticed something strange behind the door. Rick came in and studied the form.
“I think it’s another bat.”
We barely recognized it as such, since it was wedged between the carpeting and the wall. Concerned, but not devastated like the first time, we dealt with the situation as quickly as possible, getting the creature out of our house. We didn’t bother with phone calls or shots, but we realized the first time wasn’t a fluke.
“Maybe they’re coming in through the vents,” Rick mused. “I’ve heard they can get into some tight spaces.”
He carefully covered all of the registers downstairs, thinking the intruders were coming from underneath the house. We felt better, believing that cold weather brought the bats inside. But when summer came, we found this wasn’t necessarily true.
The most frightening encounter occurred when I turned on a fan shortly before bedtime. As I started toward the other end of the bedroom, a huge bat soared over my head! Fear penetrated my being as I ducked instinctively while the creature flew around the room. It really looked more like a bird, but with the trouble we’d been having, I felt sure it was a bat. After what seemed like an eternity, it sailed through the door to the den.
It definitely was the largest one we’d seen. Using his gloves, Rick took it outside. We both had trouble sleeping that night, and I kept reliving the scenario of that dark, bird-like creature flying back and forth in our bedroom. I wondered if there were more in the house.
Not many days later, our theory that bats were coming from under our house was dispelled when one appeared in the upstairs bathroom. A test for rabies turned out okay, but our nightmare continued. Something no one told us before we moved to our area, is that our town has a history of bat problems. We learned that, years earlier, the sky was almost black at dusk, when a myriad of bats left their attic dwellings to search for food. Things had improved in general since then, but our situation was getting worse.
We made some calls to local exterminators, but they told us they couldn’t help with bats, since they’re a protected species. We checked other sources, eventually finding someone to screen and seal spaces in our attic, but it wasn’t long before another bat appeared upstairs. This prompted us to have the chimney checked to make sure nothing could come in that way. The inspector assured us our chimney was secure, but another bat showed up soon thereafter.
Rick then had the idea of using clear packing tape on our attic door and the attic fan vent, and it wasn’t long before we heard strange sounds coming from the second floor. We went up with our cat, Mocha, and were shocked to find at least one bat trying to break through the tape on the attic door! We could actually see a creature working diligently. It seemed to back up to get momentum, then it hit the barrier as hard as it could.
Mocha was so fascinated, he helped to keep watch part of the night, in case a bat broke through. Night after night this went on, and the invaders even tried to come through the attic fan vent! It was eerie–like a horror movie. Needless to say, we all four lost sleep.
After making more phone calls, we got in touch with a bat man traveling through the area. He climbed into the attic, armed with a mask and gloves, and found two dead bats. As he banged away, trying to frighten the creatures, Rick was posted outside, and he watched 101 bats take flight from underneath our roofline! The man closed areas where he thought they might be getting in, and we relaxed–certain that our home was finally bat free.
This wasn’t to last, however, and we contacted a second bat eliminator who traveled. He didn’t come until mid-August, since the law demands that the young bats be given a chance to fly. When he finally came, the man affixed a net to the side of our house, allowing the bats to exit, but not return. Another worker came a few days later to remove the net and finish sealing the fascia board base. This expensive procedure seemed to take care of the problem, and we haven’t seen a bat since.
During our experience, we learned that bats like warmth, and they prefer to squeeze into small spaces, rather than going through an open window. They also like to be near a source of water, such as a pond or pool, swooping down to take sips occasionally.
We still know little about these creatures, but so much more than we did prior to this ordeal. Most of the bats we dealt with during those two and a half years seemed docile, and for that we’re grateful. Choco and Mocha have found other ways to spend their time, and we’re all getting more sleep. We sincerely hope we’ll have no more visits from these uninvited guests.