Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bats in the Belfry

Last Friday Clyde, Pierce, wildlife specialist Stephen Vantassel, and I went to visit a child care center located in a church that had reported seeing bats. We met with the director, another child care staff member, a custodian, and a parent who had been involved in capturing one of the bats. They had been seeing several bats inside, and had caught them either with containers or gloves. In all cases, they've followed rabies protocol and had the bats tested. All have turned out negative, but with the children and staff in the building, it's especially important to find the source and prevent more bats from entering.

We suggested that on the inside, the staff screen all vents and openings, such as around pipes. We also noted that they should fill in gaps under the doors with thick towels or rubber stoppers, and to keep doors shut at night to prevent bats from moving to different rooms. Doors during cleaning and trash removal should also be kept shut.

A trip outside the church revealed many large gaps and bat droppings in many locations. We recommended that the staff install one-way bat doors on gaps rather than sealing them immediately. Sealing them could cause the bats to try to find another way out, which in this case might be inside the building. A recent roof repair might have also contributed to some of the bat activity inside. The one-way door will allow the bat to fly out of its roosting/living area, but it won't be able to find its way back in. Once the child care staff are sure the bats are gone out of an area, then they can seal up the gaps. We did find one actual living bat in a gap.

We also mentioned that the staff might want to initiate a "bat watch." Near sundown, people can be stationed at each corner of the building and watch for the comings and goings of bats. That would help in determining exactly where they are living/roosting and help target control efforts.

Other pest issues the staff will want to address include cutting tree limbs away from the walls so that squirrels or other animals can't access the building. Also, weedy areas near the building are great mice habitat and a weed free zone of 12-15 inches should be established around the entire structure.

We wrote a set of recommendations and sent them to the child care center, outlining many IPM methods that can be used to solve their bat problem. We hope to hear some good news about the bat sightings once the staff implements these strategies!

For more information about bats and bat control, check out our Bat Nebguide.

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