For those of you that don’t know me, in addition to all of this wildlife talk, I’m also a trained, professional opera singer. And, oddly enough, I’ve had far more interaction with bats through opera than I’ve ever had working for ABC Wildlife. In fact, the first opera I was ever in was called Die Fledermaus, which is German for The Bat. Literally translated, Fledermaus means “flying mouse”, and while they might look kind of like mice with wings, bats aren’t rodents at all. They’re actually their own order of animal, and they make up roughly 20% of all mammal species. That means there are bats around you all the time just hanging out and being awesome without you even knowing about it. So let’s talk about bats. When are they an asset, and when is it time to call a bat removal expert?
Singing in Chautauqua means never having to worry about bugs flying into your open mouth
I’ve had the pleasure of spending several summers with the opera theater company at the Chautauqua Institution. Chautauqua is a resort community in upstate New York where people can spend the summer enjoying concerts, theater, lectures, etc. It’s located on a huge lake, there are a ton of beautiful, shady trees, and it gets very hot and VERY humid. It took me a while to realize that despite the conditions being ideal for mosquitoes, there are none in Chautauqua. None. I distinctly remember walking outside one night and looking up into the sky and seeing several dozen birds flying overhead. I thought to myself, “Hey, look at all those pretty birds!” And then I thought, “Wait a minute…birds definitely don’t fly at night.” The reason Chautauqua is so blissfully mosquito-free is because it is home to a huge bat population. Bats are pretty much the unofficial mascot of this community, and Chautauquans go to great lengths to preserve their bat colonies and educate people about these little, winged marvels. All of us at ABC Wildlife wish that more people had this attitude. Bats are amazing, and immensely valuable to the environment, plus they’re adorable. Just look at that smooshed, furry face! In addition to controlling mosquito populations, they also contribute to healthy agriculture by eating crop-destroying insects and pollinating plants. They might look a little weird, but they’re so important.
They don’t teach you how to wrangle bats in music school
My second encounter with bats was far more interactive and humiliating. Opera training doesn’t exactly equip you to deal with real life situations. I was performing Dido and Aeneas with an opera company in upstate New York (seriously, upstate New York is a hotbed for summer opera and bats) and living in a very beautiful, but very old, Victorian house. One evening, my friend Elizabeth and I were hanging out in her room, and all of a sudden there was a bat swooping across the room. Since this was well before I knew anything about handling wildlife, what followed was nothing short of embarrassing. It involved Elizabeth screaming and diving under the comforter while I wielded a broom and a trashcan like pajama-clad Valkyrie, trying to corral the bat into the bathroom. What we did right in this situation was…well, basically nothing. Keeping the animal isolated in one room is proper protocol, but we could have accomplished this by simply leaving the room and closing the door. We also released the bat once it was captured, which is a big no-no.
How one should handle bats inside of a house will vary depending on WHERE that bats are. If there is a colony in your attic, bat removal should be taken care of using excluders or one-way doors that allow the bats to leave, but not reenter. This is safe for both you and the bats. However, any time a bat comes into a living space like a bedroom, kitchen, or living room, it should be hand captured by a licensed professional and sent in for rabies testing. Contrary to what popular culture would have you believe, bats aren’t naturally aggressive, and they don’t have a taste for human flesh. Generally speaking, they just want to eat bugs and sleep and poop. But they will use their teeth if they feel threatened, and it’s entirely possible to be bitten without even knowing it. So if you find yourself in a bedroom with a bat, close all of the windows and doors, and call a professional bat removal company immediately.
Who you gonna call? Bat removal specialists!
Facing any animal encounter when you aren’t used to dealing with animals can be weird and scary, and you won’t always know the right thing to do. As you can see, I’ve been there myself. If you are ever in doubt of how you should be handling a wildlife situation, you should always call a wildlife control company, because they WILL know what to do. We ABC Wildlife folks love speaking to people about animals, and we love solving problems. Our dedication to preserving the bat population is intense, which is why we use the most humane bat removal methods possible when excluding colonies. Call us today at (847) 870-7175 and we’ll be happy to answer all of your bat questions. I’ll be happy to answer all of your opera questions, too.
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Karen Jesse is a wildlife writer and educator licensed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Department of Public Health in urban wildlife management and structural pest control. She enjoys hiking, telling people how cool skunks are, and opera.
Images courtesy of Gilles San Martin and Anna Leonteos