A BAT FOUND IN WINTER
Every now and then during the winter alive bat will be found on the ground outdoors or possibly flying around indoors. No one can assume the reason it emerged from hibernation so it is best to leave it alone and contact the local animal control officer or police to handle the situation.
Bats, our only flying mammals, are truly remarkable animals. It’s too bad their unwarranted reputation as bloodsucking and disease carrying creatures has prevented many people from appreciating how beneficial and unique they are. Bats consume thousands of nocturnal flying insects including mosquitoes, moths, and beetles, making them a more efficient insect control than birds or bug zappers. Dr. Thomas Kunz, a bat researcher at Boston University, estimates that the bats living within Route 128 eat 13 tons of insects each summer.
The two most common bats found in Massachusetts are the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), both roost in attics, barns, and other hot, dark places.The little brown and big brown bats have short, soft fur covering their head and body and, as their name suggests, both have rich brown bodies with slightly darker brown wings. The body of a little brown bat measures 4½ to 5½ inches long, including the tail, and has an 8½ to 10½ inch wingspan. The big brown bat’s body ranges from 5½ to 8 inches in length with a 12 to 11¼ inch wingspan.
All bats found in Massachusetts are insectivores. They feed primarily at night, catching thousands of mosquitoes, moths and other night-flying insects while in flight. It is estimated that an individual bat can eat 600 insects per hour and many of these are insects that people regard as pests.
Bats are not blind as many people believe, on the contrary they have excellent eyesight, but use echolocation in the dark to detect objects as minute as a human hair. When in flight they continuously emit high frequency sounds (unheard by humans) which bounce back to their ears enabling them to locate objects, as well as the flying insects they feed on. The bat uses the increasing frequency of the echoes to zero-in on its target. During its search for food the bat may emit 10-20 pulses per second, increasing to 500 per second just before it attacks its prey.
SITUATIONS AND SOLUTIONS
Because bats are so efficient at controlling many of the insect species considered pests by humans, it is advantageous to leave them alone. Where bats inhabit buildings they are usually unobtrusive, hanging quietly from rafters during the day and exiting at night in search of food. Unlike squirrels, they are not destructive and do not gnaw on wood or wiring.
A SINGLE BAT IN A LIVING SPACE
Unintentionally, bats may enter areas occupied by humans through an open window or door, or an opening from a colonized attic or wall. A bat indoors is not necessarily a sick bat; it may be a young bat who tried to follow its mother outside and took a wrong turn or it may have followed a moth through an open window.
A BAT IN CHILD’S ROOM
In all situations where a bat is found in a child’s room (or even an adult’s room), contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) in Jamaica Plain, MA at 617-983-6800 (24 hours). Because a bat’s teeth and claws are so small, it’s impossible to determine whether someone has been bitten. Therefore, it’s up to the MDPH to determine whether you or your child should receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) shots.
It is also against state law to possess wild birds and mammals. Wildlife rehabilitators are trained and licensed by the state to care for injured and orphaned wildlife. If you need the services of a rehabilitator contact MassWildlife (Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife ) at 508-366-4470, or Massachusetts Audubon’s Widlife Information Line at 781-259-2150.
The chance you will come across a bat before the spring is unlikely, but in the case that you do, contact A1 Exterminators, www.a1exterminators.com