On Wednesday evening I returned home from a work trip. I had been teaching a course -- three full days in front of a classroom. It's an activity I quite enjoy, but this time I was kind of sick, so by the end of it I was pretty fried. Yeah, I know: bitch, bitch, bitch. But it sure felt great to climb into my very own bed and settle in for a good night's sleep.
That good night's sleep came to a an abrupt end at around 1:30 in the morning, when my younger daughter, home for the holidays from college, burst into the hall yelling, "There's a bat in my room!" I believe there were also expletives involved.
I have done this before, so I know the drill: first choice, kill the bat and send it in for rabies testing; second choice, shoo it out of the house (and get the rabies shots just to be sure). I grabbed a murder implement (a lightweight metal bowl -- I don't play tennis, sadly, so my options are a bit limited) and I shut myself in the bedroom with the flying menace. Fortunately, this one was an easy mark: it settled fairly quickly on a flat surface where I was able to bang on it with my bowl. I believe there were also expletives involved.
We dumped the bat into a small cardboard box which we secured with 87 very large pieces of packing tape (yes, it was dead; but still). Then my daughter and I snuggled up in bed with cups of tea and watched My Cousin Vinny, trying to calm down, eventually getting to sleep again around 4:00 am or so.
The City of Newton's website offers these helpful tips if you have a bat in your house:
- Don't damage the bat's head during capture because the brain is needed for rabies testing.
- Place the bat in a clear, sealed container.
- Store the bat in the refrigerator until you can drop it off for testing.
Surprisingly, the website says nothing about My Cousin Vinny.
Let us address these suggestions one at a time:
- Don't damage the bat's head during capture because the brain is needed for rabies testing: This presupposes a degree of finesse which is quite difficult to muster when something is flying around your head. The idea is to hit the bat with something until it stops moving. The concept of aim, under the circumstances, is perhaps a bit optimistic.
- Place the bat in a clear, sealed container: Here's the thing: if I put the bat in a clear container then I will need to LOOK at it, and I am trying very hard to get that image out of my mind. Further, I only have a limited supply of Tupperware, and other things being equal, I'd rather commit it to storing leftover soup than dead bats. But the sealed part? I'm definitely on board with that.
- Store the bat in the refrigerator: I think not.
The next day, a lovely police officer from the Newton PD's Animal Control unit picked up the animal for rabies testing (they make housecalls -- who knew?). He did not seem concerned about the lack of transparency in my bat vessel, nor about the fact that I'd stored it in the trunk of the car rather than the fridge. By mid-afternoon we got the good news that the bat was not rabid. No medical intervention needed: we can go on about our business as usual. Just a bit jumpier.
I have written about bats before, in this very blog; so I can precisely date our last bat invasion – it was a full four years ago. That’s not a terrible record – it doesn’t necessarily speak to a massive infestation. But I feel like an appropriate number of years between bat invasions is the time between now and, say, ten years after I’ve moved out of the house.
So I am about to sign on for what will be my third round of bat remediation in the past 20 years. This time I am trying a new company, one that offers a service they call "Bat Prevention." I like the sound of that. Surely, an ounce of Bat Prevention is worth at least a pound of dead bats. Even non-rabid ones.
I have in mind a kind of Extreme Vetting on the basis of species. Our household will admit most humans and a discrete selection of pets. But if you're a bat: sorry, but you'll need to stay on your side of the border. Trust me, my flying friends: that will end better for us both. Because I am one mean sonofabitch with a lightweight metal bowl and a mouthful of expletives.