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Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Batgirl
My youngest sister lives in a 90 year old, authentic, Sears craftsman bungalow cottage in upstate NY about a mile and a half from the Lake Erie shoreline in a quaint little village. It gets cold there. And snowy.

The house has beautiful original Craftsman details like the unpainted wood trim around all the windows and doors, pocket doors with leaded glass, and built in bookshelves with leaded glass, but it does need some updating and maintenance. About a week before Xmas, she noticed the cat pouncing and chasing a piece of newspaper on the floor. Upon further investigation, there was a tiny brown bat underneath it. This was captured and placed outside after much freaking out I believe. A day or so later, she went upstairs to get a sweater out of her closet, which is under the eaves of the house, and discovered a large brown BAT hanging nonchalantly on her sweater. More freaking out ensued and she proceeded to sleep in the living room until she came home for the Holidays.

Naturally, I asked how her bat situation was proceeding, and this was her reply:
So since I had "self-styled home-schooling, 5-children-having wildlife nuisance control guy" here a few weeks back, I haven't had a bat in the house. He identified several places where they might be getting into the house and I found a few more. Any crack beyond a1/4" x 1/2" needed to be taped or sealed or blocked somehow.

There are two reasons bats enter a house in the winter: (1) the temps get super cold super fast and they wake up, move down from the attic into the walls, wake up, and decide to look for water for their one winter drink. Hence, the first bat who showed up the first night the temps went below 25 degrees. The second reason a bat wakes up and comes into the house is when the temps warm up over 45 degrees and they think it's spring. They follow air currents from the attic (or wherever) and can end up in the house, confused. Oh, and did I mention that the time when it's most difficult to tell if a bat has rabies is when it enters the house in the winter? It's either out of its mind with rabies or is confused by one of the afore-mentioned conditions. Luckily for me, the BIG brown bat hanging off my blazers in my closet was a week after the little brown bat I found under the newspaper on the first night we hit 45+ degrees in a while.

So, I have the bat guy here, he's pretty great (if talkative/excited about his job) and I spend the next day sealing up every tiny crack I can see in this old-ass home with all manner of screening and tape. But it's futile because he told me that the basement was "unseal-able" and they'd likely end up there and "you never know when they're just going to crawl through a heating vent." Did I mention I have old-ass forced air heating with heating registers of a good 1/2" grid size? Nice.

OK, bat guy leaves. Turn on the TV. We're about to have a five-day warm streak of temps way above 45 degrees. We go over 60 degrees in early January in upstate NY?! Every evening at dusk I turn on every light in every upstairs room, plus the radio in the bedroom and slink back downstairs to hermetically seal myself in the living room. This includes painter's-taping the basement door, the mudroom door, the pocket door between the living room and the front hallway and herd the cats to come with me.

With the lights and TV on in the living room, I sleep maybe 7 minutes each night. When I get up in the morning, I check the claw marks the cat has made in my various taping jobs (on the preciously preserved Craftsman woodwork) and go upstairs. Turn off the lights, turn off the radio. Turn on the closet lights and poke through each jacket with a broom handle. Crush each shoe toe for evidence of hibernating bats. Check the ceilings of every room, sleeve of every hanging coat, and shower curtain, hanging bathroom towel for hiding bats. I still feel icky.

BUT....and this is a BIG BUT....when I seal up the closet gaps with tape on a day when the weather is warm, the cat will not come when called and will not leave the closet post right under the crack where bat-guy said the bat might have entered. She is mourning her friends the bats or protecting one I sealed in the closet.. The only other time I found her sleeping in a weird place was when she was guarding a grounded bat she found this summer in the small bedroom.

SO... I FREAK OUT and call my home-schooling bat guy who lives an hour away because hey, this is no wheresville. He is down for the count with the New Year's cold/flu so I'm on my own. I seal up the room, stuff stupid felted sweater scraps under the door and don't enter my bedroom for two days until the more local, totally unexperienced wildlife control guy can get here. I instruct him to take the closet apart garment by garment and check every square inch of the room. No Bat. I feel foolish but safe. He leaves. It takes me two days to re-organize both closets but hey, it's January so a Goodwill trip was in the cards anyway.

Have I mentioned that I'm still sleeping (pretending to sleep) on my purple tweed 1970s pull-out couch from hell downstairs in the supposedly safe living room with many heating vents? Wildlife Control Guy #2 looks at me like I'm crazy to have just paid him $85 to destroy my closets and get a personal view of my wardrobe.

Home-schooling bat guy #1 tells me I have to call local Environmental Services since I had a bat in the house for 4 days before I discovered it. He tells me I'm going to need rabies shots---at $1,500 for the course of shots. Did I mention I'm already out $139 for his consultation plus the $85.00 for the other guy to go through my lingerie?

Environmental Services guy doesn't "recommend" shots if I didn't find the first bat flying around my bedroom. But he can't say for sure. So I get each cat a rabies booster (at $30 apiece) and take my own chances with the rabies on his advice.

So I guess, stay tuned for rabid emails from me. The incubation period is anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 years. That should make for some fun family diagnoses when I get out of line.

Am having home-schooling bat guy #1 come in April to seal the outside of the house and extract them "humanely". Oh, and get the skunk out from under my front porch and the groundhogs out from under the shed. Cost of bat removal alone?....$850.00 on top of the $139.00 consultation plus other fees plus booster shots plus plus plus. Seriously, a husband even for a year would be cheaper. Cost of peace-of-mind to resolve bat-induced insomnia? Priceless.
posted by Broadsheet @ 6:00 PM  
5 Editorial Opinions:
  • At January 22, 2008, Blogger Zenchick said…

    "discovered a large brown BAT hanging nonchalantly on her sweater."
    {passes out and hits the floor}

     
  • At January 22, 2008, Blogger Sally said…

    OMG!! I would SO LOVE to find bats in my house - they are SO cool!

     
  • At January 22, 2008, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    Sally: They are very cool OUTSIDE for eating mosquitos and bugs. Inside, they crap in your walls and carry rabies.

     
  • At January 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think that skunks and raccoons are more likely to have rabies. You and your sister need to relax about the bats. They are way cool and yes, eat tons (literally) of insects when they are outside...would you deny them a tiny drink or water or warmth? Jeez....
    For more correct information about bats, see the following website of one of my favorite bat colleagues:
    http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Staff/staffprofile.asp?StaffID=105

    And, check out the kid's book called "Bats on the Beach" its a winner.

    Finally, my dear younger sister of my good friend, please, they are just small furry mammals, give them a break!

    xo that pesky amphibian biologist who is also "excited" about her job!

     
  • At March 27, 2008, Blogger Mark said…

    I believe that one in 200 bats has rabies, but of bats found inside a home, 1 in 14 does. Their bats can be impercetable, and they may be able to pass rabies through airborne transmission. I agree with your bat guy there is probably little risk since you didn't find the bat flying around your room or having a close encounter with you, but others reading this should seriously consider rabies shots if they come closer to a bat than it roosting on your sweater.

     
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