Bats

When you move from the city to the Driftless country, there are a few things you have to get used to – businesses close by 5pm, buggy is an accepted form of transportation, and rifles are sold at Walmart. One thing that I’ve been more challenged to warm up to, is a small, winged visitor that seems to cohabit with us. Ever since we moved into a house outside of town, we’ve been graced with its visits every couple months or so. It’s a miraculously ephemeral creature that disappears as suddenly as it appears. It’s a bat.

Don’t get me wrong. Bats are great. One bat can eat thousands of insects, including mosquitoes, in one night. Wisconsin has 7 different bat species, categorized as cave bats and tree bats. I suspect our bat is of the “Big Brown” species based on this description: Eptesicus fuscus. All four cave bat species are threatened. Habitat loss, pesticide use, and an invasive fungus associated with White-Nose Syndrome are all challenging the bat populations (wiatri.net).

Big Brown Bat

While rabies is not to be taken lightly, rabies actually occurs in less than 0.5% of the bat population. What may be of more immediate concern would be the build-up of their droppings, known as guano. A fungus can grow on guano that may cause respiratory infections in people (wiatri.net).

I certainly don’t want to harm the bats, and I want to them to be comfortable around our house, just not in our house. Believe me, I do not respond well to the fluttering and swooping around my head. Thus, there are two steps to living peacefully with these beneficial neighbors. One, convincing them to take up residence outside the house, and two, removing our house from the bat house marketing. Acting quickly, I stopped at our local Tractor Supply and purchased a bat house. This basic 4” x 12” x 17” structure can house up to twenty bats!

Bat House2

Bat House close up

We placed the bat house at the end of a 10 ft pole in our front yard, facing southeast, where it will get full sunlight most of the day. Bats like it hot. It’s recommended to place the house on poles or the side of a building, but not on trees where predators would get to them more easily (wi.dnr.gov). Apparently, there are no methods for attracting bats to the house. You just have to hope they find it and like it. I’m thinking of putting a couple more up just in case…

So the second important step of kindly kicking our housemates out has not progressed very far. Bats typically like to hang out in attics, but can also be found in walls, chimneys, etc. We have spotted the bats mostly in the central part of the house where there is a door to our basement. Sure enough, this winter when I opened the basement door to retrieve a bottle of wine, I was greeted by a guest. My hunch is that the bats are getting in somewhere around our roof and travelling down through the wall to the basement ceiling where the boiler keeps them warm. Fine, they can have the basement. For now, I have stuffed a towel under the door. Yes, I’ve witness a bat dive under the less than one inch gap. Impressive.

Bat Barricade

Next, what we have to do is find the entry points. It’s important to note that you cannot mess with bats between June and August 15. The pups are born in early June, and you don’t want to risk separating the mother from the pups, which would mean certain death for the pups. So now is the time to act! The best method is to install one-way exits on any suspected entry points. You can tape netting around the exit, leaving an opening on the bottom, just tight enough so that the bats can make their way out but cannot crawl back in. Give the bats several days to make their way out before you seal off the entry ways.

I am looking forward to lounging on our porch or around a bon fire on summer nights, while observing these graceful creatures dive and swoop for mosquitoes. We certainly are fortunate to have them around… just not too close to by head!

Sources

Saving Wisconsin’s Bats: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/bats.html

Now is a good time to build and install bat houses: http://dnr.wi.gov/news/weekly/article/?id=3259

Building a Bat House: http://wiatri.net/inventory/bats/Resources/BuildingBatHouses.pdf

Bat Exclusion, Method used by The Wisconsin Bat Program: http://wiatri.net/inventory/bats/Resources/BatExclusion.pdf