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Frequently Asked Questions about Bats

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Why are all the bats dying?
White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has resulted in the loss of 5.7-6.7 million bats in the northeastern United States since 2006. This disease has affected all six of Vermont’s cave bat species (bats that hibernate in caves and mines in the winter months). WNS is associated with a newly identified fungus that invades the skin and breaks down the tissue in hibernating bats, leading to dehydration, starvation, and ultimately death. Populations of Vermont’s two most common bat species – the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat (northern myotis) – have declined over 90% in three years and are now state endangered. More information about WNS can be found at whitenosesyndrome.org.
Is there anything I can do to help the bats in Vermont?

Yes! There are two ways you can help Vermont’s bats:

First, you can report colonies of bats living in buildings using our Bats Colony Reporting Form and/or volunteer to monitor summer colonies by counting bats on warm summer nights as they emerge from buildings. Check out our Summer Maternity Roost Monitoring Program for more information.

Second, if you have bats in your area, you can build or buy a well-designed bat house. Suitable and protected summer roost sites are critical to the survival of Vermont’s bats by providing places for female bats to raise their young. The two best sources for pre-built bat houses are: Bat Conservation International and Bat Conservation and Management.

If you want your bat house to be occupied, rather than just a decoration, it will need to be the correct dimensions, located on a post or building (never a tree), painted black, and receive maximum sunshine. You can find research-proven designs for building your own bat house along with tips for proper placement in our Attracting Vermont's Bats brochure and on the Bat Conservation International website.

Do bats carry rabies?

All mammals are capable of carrying rabies. Though less than 1% of bats carry rabies, it is a very real threat and you should avoid direct contact with bats. If you have been bitten or scratched by a bat or have found a bat in a room with a sleeping, intoxicated, or mentally disabled person, a previously unattended child, or an unvaccinated pet then you should call the rabies hotline at 1-800-4RABIES immediately and do not let the bat out of the house until the rabies hotline technicians advise you.

Little brown bats, one of the species commonly found in homes, is now endangered in Vermont so you MUST fill out an Incidental Take Form on our website within five days if the bat needs to be captured or killed and sent for rabies testing. The penalties and fines normally associated with killing an endangered animal are avoided in the case of a potential rabies exposure if you fill out this form. Please read see our General Permit for more information.

What should I do if a bat gets in my house?

Don’t panic. This is very common in the summer when young bats first learn to fly. We have detailed instructions for how to deal with “unwanted guests” in your living space in our Bats in Your House brochure. If you suspect a potential rabies exposure (see above), call the rabies hotline at 1-800-4RABIES and follow the Incidental Take instructions above if the bat must be sent in for rabies testing. Bat Conservation International has an excellent video available that can walk you through removing a bat from your house.

What should I do if I find a sick or injured bat?

This is common during warm spells in July and August when bats can become dehydrated. First, if anyone has had contact with the bat or you suspect a rabies exposure, please call the rabies hotline at 1-800-4RABIES. Next, please call the bat experts at the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at (802)786-0098 or (802)786-3862 for helpful guidance.

Unfortunately, we have no rehabilitation facilities to care for bats, but in many cases, bats simply become dehydrated and with a little guidance can be successfully placed back outside at nightfall. If you are unable to reach someone, please leave a message or fill out our Sick Acting Bat form and we will get back to you during working hours. When in doubt, it is best to return wildlife to the wild. Use gloves to place the bat outside on something high and safe from predators, like a tree branch (but not in a box, which the bat may not be able to get out of) at nightfall so that the bat can return to its natural roost.

What should I do if I find a dead bat?

This is common during July and August when young bats learn to fly for the first time and get disoriented or dehydrated. Unfortunately, there is a high mortality rate among young bats. Make sure not to handle the bat directly. If you have any questions about a possible rabies exposure, please call 1-800-4RABIES. Please fill out our Sick Acting Bat form or call 802-786-0098. We are very interested in tracking bat activity throughout the state. If the bat is not needed for rabies testing, it can be placed in a plastic bag and put into the trash.

I know you are taking reports of sick acting bats, but do you want to hear about healthy bats too?
Yes! We are especially interested in colonies of bats living in buildings since they may include the state endangered little brown bat. Please fill out the Bat Colony Reporting form or call 413-786-0098.
How do I know if a bat has White-nose Syndrome, and is it harmful to people?

If you find a bat in the winter or spring with a white powdery substance on its nose, wings, ears, or forearms, this may be evidence of the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome. White-nose Syndrome is a deadly disease that has devastated Vermont’s cave bats since it was first discovered in the state in 2008.

Though bats should never be handled without heavy gloves due to potential rabies exposure, White-nose Syndrome and the fungus that causes it are harmless to humans or other animals. Please fill out our Sick Acting Bat form or call 802-786-0098 to report the bat. In some cases we may be interested in collecting the specimen, or we may advise you to dispose of it properly. More information on White-nose Syndrome can be found at whitenosesyndrome.org

How do I keep bats from entering my house?
The best way to keep bats out of the house is to make sure that windows are not left open without screens in them and to maintain your house to prevent cracks and crevices from forming that allow bats to enter.
Why do bats continue to enter my house and how are they getting in?

Bats are opportunists. Though bats do not chew or dig to create holes, they are able to find and utilize openings as small as ½ inch wide. These openings are commonly found around the chimney, under flashing, through attic vents, under slate roof tiles, and at roof edges, ridge caps, soffits, and fascia boards. Watch for bats exiting from these areas at dusk or returning at dawn. Look for piles of guano (bat droppings) or dark body staining around the entry and exit points. Also, look for entries from the roost into the living space around attic access doors, chimneys, and other openings to attic spaces around closets and ceilings. For more information, read our Bats in Your House brochure.

If I find a bat in my house, does that necessarily mean they are living here?

If you frequently have bats in your living space, there is a good chance they are living somewhere in the building- most likely an attic space. If this is the first time you have seen a bat in the house, the explanation may be as simple as a lost or confused individual that flew in through an open window or door during a warm summer night. Learn more in our Bats in Your House brochure.

Do you want to know about the bats living in my attic or barn?
Yes! If you find a bat colony in your Vermont residence, PLEASE HELP by reporting the colony using our at Bat Colony Reporting form. We are trying to learn more about the state-endangered little brown bats, which often congregate in attics or barns during the summer to raise their young. If you are wondering if you have little brown bats, look at our guide to identifying house bat species. Your observations are invaluable to the conservation and recovery of Vermont’s bats. If you want to help us understand more about this endangered species, you can volunteer to count bats this summer through our Summer Maternity Roost Monitoring Program.
If I have lots of bats living in my home, how can I get them out?

If you believe that a number of bats are living in your attic, basement, or living space, then you probably have a “maternity colony” of little brown or big brown bats. These species prefer to form large groups in the summer to raise their young in warm, protected spaces such as attics. In addition, big brown bats sometimes overwinter in unheated attics and basements instead of going back to caves and mines for hibernation.

Please be aware that the little brown bat is endangered in Vermont so harming, harassing or killing these bats is a violation of the endangered species law and subject to large fines (with the exception of a potential rabies exposure). The good news is that you can safely exclude bats from your home by following our Best Management Practices. We are very interested in mapping house-bat colonies around the state and helping you to properly exclude bats if needed, so please fill out our Bat Colony Reporting form and contact us at (802)786-0098 or (802)786-3862 if you would like a list of nuisance wildlife control professionals in your area.

How much will it cost me to have someone else get the bats out of my house?

The cost for professional bat colony exclusion varies depending on how long the bats have been there, how old and large your house is, and where you live. It is best to call around and get quotes from several nuisance wildlife specialists. We can provide you with the names of some specialists in your area if you call 802-786-0098, or you may find companies listed online or in the phone book under “pest control” or “nuisance wildlife.”

Please be aware that the state-endangered little brown bat gathers in summer colonies in attics and barns. All pest control or nuisance wildlife professionals in Vermont must fill out a nuisance bat work report if excluding bats from buildings. Make sure to ask nuisance wildlife control professionals if they follow Vermont’s Best Management Practices for properly excluding bats from buildings. They will need a special permit from the Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources to exclude bats if they do not follow these guidelines.

I am a pest control/nuisance wildlife specialist. What should I know about excluding bats from buildings?

The little brown bat is one of two species that prefers to set up summer colonies in buildings. Due to drastic population losses from White-nose Syndrome the little brown bat is now endangered in Vermont. If you perform bat exclusion work, you are likely to encounter this bat. If you are unsure which species you are working with, please follow our guide to identifying little brown and big brown bats. All pest control or nuisance wildlife specialists in Vermont must follow Vermont’s Best Management Practices and must fill out a nuisance bat work report when excluding bats from buildings. If these guidelines are not followed, you will need to apply for a State Threatened and Endangered Species Permit from the Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. We also recommend the installation of a bat house before the completion of all exclusions to increase the survival of displaced bats.

Where do I buy a bat house or how can I build one myself?

Thank you for helping to create more bat-friendly habitat! The two best sources for pre-built bat houses are: Bat Conservation International and Bat Conservation and Management . If you want your bat house to be occupied, rather than just a decoration, it will need to be the correct dimensions, located on a post or building (never a tree), painted black, and receive maximum sunshine. See our tips for Attracting Vermont’s Bats. You can find research-proven designs for building your own bat house along with more tips for proper placement on the Bat Conservation International website.

How do I get bats to live in my empty bat house?

If you have seen bats flying around your yard, but they are not using the lovely bat house that you worked so hard to build and install, keep in mind that it sometimes takes a few years for bats to find and move in to a new bat house. However, you can increase your chances for success by making sure your bat house design and placement follow research-proven guidelines. You can find these in our brochure on Attracting Vermont’s Bats and on the Bat Conservation International website.



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