Bats are making a big August comeback. This month, more than any other, is when residents are more likely to find a bat in their home—including baby bats.
Bats are beneficial, so they shouldn't be killed. According to Bug Runner of Spring Valley, which does bat removals in Rockland and Orange counties, "There are many myths and misconceptions about bats and although these wives' tales are not true, care should be taken with any wildlife that is injured or disoriented. Additional caution should be used with mammals due to the danger of rabies. In fact most bats are very gentle, beneficial (and believe it or not) mammals just like humans."
The good news is that it's past mid-August. In its Big Bat Book, the New York State Health Department says don't bat-proof your home in the summer to avoid trapping baby bats in the roost.
If you find a bat in your home, don't let it fly away. Catch it so it can be tested for rabies. It's rare, but it happens. In Rockland County, 44 cases of rabies from bats were recorded between 1965 and 1999, the state said.
For those who capture the bat, 97 percent of the bats tested do not have rabies, so those residents are spared the series of rabies shots. As long as the bat is not rabid, no one will need rabies shots. But if the bat is rabid, a series of life-saving vaccines must begin soon.
Whenever a bat is found in a room with a sleeping or mentally impaired person or with a young child or pet, contact with the bat must be suspected.
From 1995 to 2011, 49 people died of rabies in the U.S; 35 of them had been exposed to bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
Here’s how to safely catch a bat:
1. Close windows and doors so the bat cannot escape.
2. Wear thick gloves and grab a container (such as a coffee can), a piece of cardboard and some tape.
3. Wait until the bat has settled on a wall.
4. Place the container over the bat, trapping it against the wall.
5. Slide the cardboard between the wall and container to trap the bat inside.
6. Tape the cardboard to the container
7. It’s critical to keep it on ice in a cooler or double-bag it and place it in the freezer.
8. Call the Health Department for advice on submitting the bat for testing.It’s also a good idea to learn how to bat-proof your home, by adding screens to your eaves and attic openings.
"Unfortunately, bats are persecuted because of misinformation and their preference to live in man made structures," says Bug Runner, which uses exclusion techniques for bat control. "Bats commonly roost behind fascia boards, under siding, in attics and behind shutters."
Another favorite place for bats to hang out is inside your closed patio umbrella, so beware when you open it.