These are the steps to follow should you find a bat flying around inside your house:
1. Jump up and down and scream (recommended: "A bat! A bat!! A bat!!!)
2. Calmly and rationally, take a moment to review what you know about bats:
a. They are helpful animals, eating a gazillion times their weight in mosquitos and other harmful insects
b. Most bats are not rabid: 95% of the bats caught in Massachusetts test negative for rabies
c. Of course, that means that 5% of the bats in MA do test positive for rabies
d. And there are no mosquitoes inside the house, so what the hell is it doing in here?
3. Repeat Step #1.
In fact, there are two more steps, and I have followed them successfully, either on my own or with Beloved Spouse and Helpmate Steve, with the first eight (yes, 8!) bats that have flown into my house over the years:
Close as many doors as you can to isolate the bat in a single room. Then open the windows and wait for it to fly out. If the bat stops flying and settles on a wall, you can trap it under a bowl or box (our favorite is a big blue colander). Slide a piece of cardboard underneath. Then take your package of bat outside (being sure to close the doors and windows behind you). Wish the bat Godspeed as you lift the colander and watch it fly away, encouraging it to eat as many mosquitos as it likes as it goes
Piece of cake, right? I was pretty good at the bat thing, I thought, until the other night when Bat #9 paid an unexpected visit. My daughter took the initiative to execute Step #1, sending the Bat Alert to her mother as I finished the dinner dishes. Upstairs I went, big blue colander and cardboard box at the ready. But there were two problems:
- First, during my last round of bat remediation (completed, lamentably, just weeks before the arrival of Bat #9), the Bat Remediation Technician told me that the current recommendation for those who find a bat in the house is to capture the bat and have it tested for rabies, since there have now been one or two documented instances of bat-to-human rabies transmission in the Northeast.
- Second -- and this was really the clincher -- I COULD NOT FIND THE BAT. I spent two solid hours inspecting every square inch of my house, armed with colander, cardboard and ladder, looking behind pictures and cabinets, rustling drapes, inspecting the tops of the books in the bookshelves. I found dust bunnies, long-lost buttons, unpaid parking tickets, and enough spare change to park for a month. But no bat. And you can neither shoo a bat out a window nor capture it under a colander if you can't find the damn thing.
Did I mention that Helpmate Steve was out of town? Helpmate Steve is extremely good at being out of town at moments when some particularly nasty bit of household labor is required. His specialty is missing blizzards.
Two hours later, slightly panicked about the prospect of spending the night with my child and a rabid but invisible bat in the house, I called my town's Emergency Animal Control number, and was promptly referred to an enterprise called Bay State Wildlife. Bay State Wildlife, as it turns out, is a bleary-eyed guy named Mike with a tennis racket (and, no doubt, an advanced degree in Animal Behavior). Mike and I spent another 40 minutes searching the house and we were just about to give up, when our little winged friend took to the air again. The evening ended with a dead bat in a ziploc bag in a shoebox in the trunk of my car.
My efforts to get the bat tested for rabies the next morning were nearly stymied by the fact that the good folks at the City Hall could not find the relevant form. After watching them search for 15 minutes or so, mindful of the mountain of work on my desk, I helpfully suggested that I write my name, address and phone number on a piece of paper affixed to the box. Absolutely not! I was told. I MUST fill out the form in its entirety -- it was crucial to the public health matter at hand.
The form, when found, did in fact include critical public health information, to wit:
- My name
- My address
- My phone number
- The fact that the dead animal in the box was a bat
As it turned out, the bat was not rabid. But my house has been mosquito-free ever since.