Bats in the Belfry

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It’s so much fun having bats.

We first found out about our bats before we ever moved in. My husband, Rob, was showing his latest firearm purchase to the foreman building our log home, and the sound of the shot startled some bats that had discovered the small (very, very small) opening between the logs and the fascia board at the very top of the front porch. It startled both of them, and they called me over to watch. As they took another shot, even more bats flew out.

I had never seen bats flying up close, although I had seen them at a distance at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  I really wasn’t sure these were actually bats. They sort of look like small birds when they’re flying.  But we looked up and we could see ‘shadows’ of their little bodies in that crack, moving upward toward the top of the peaked porch roof.  When they got to the top, they would pause for a minute and then swoop out and down, before flying off in the dusk.

Once we moved in, they never failed us. You could almost set your clock by them. At 8 p.m., they would make that same little daredevil trip, diving out to feed on insects. I was fascinated by them. We moved here from a Southern California suburb, where there were NO bats.  Because I had seen them at Carlsbad Caverns, I had somehow assumed that they just lived in caves – not houses!

As the number of bats grew, they started bedding down in the fascia over our bedroom doors. It didn’t matter whether it was still quite light, or if darkness had started creeping in. At 8 p.m., we could see them start their nightly journey while we were watching TV. At first, there were 25, then 50 bats. Later, we estimated at least 100, if not more. Rob grew concerned that there might be some kind of health issue with the bats. So I started researching them. It seemed that there could be a health problem with their feces, but since they weren’t IN the house, and we don’t have an attic, it seemed harmless to let them live there.

Not only was it great fun to watch them ourselves, but they provided wonderful ‘entertainment’ to our guests. On a warm summer evening, we always opened all of the doors and windows, so the night air could cool off the house. Occasionally, a bat would get misdirected into our house.  It would fly around near the top of our vaulted ceiling, looking for a way to get out. Sometimes, they would make their way into our bedroom, flying frantically in a circle, into the master bath, and then out into the living room.  We made a ‘bat net’, and Rob got very good at capturing the bat, so we could release it back where it belonged.

Sometimes we find dehydrated bats on our deck or in our basement.

Yep, bats were a lot of fun.  Until one summer, after our guests had left and I was changing the sheets on the bed, I noticed an odor in the bedroom. Our young granddaughter had stayed in the room, and I assumed she had had an accident. I stripped the bed completely and sprayed the mattress with pet odor removal spray. Fortunately, it was near the end of the summer, and we had no more guests that year.  In a month, the smell was gone. But it returned the next summer. Summer after summer, it was the same pattern. I began to suspect the bats. My suspicions were confirmed while I was talking with the builder of our home. I mentioned the bats, and he made the comment that ‘the only reason you really need to get rid of them is the smell’.

It was July. We called several pest extermination companies, and they all referred us to the same bat removal company. When we called the bat removal company, they had us describe the house and send pictures. Based on that, they gave us a ‘ball-park’ estimate of around $3,000 – $5,000. They couldn’t come out to give a more definitive estimate until after the middle of August, because it was currently bat maternity season. But when they did, they examined every nook and cranny they could find (which, in a log home, is plenty) and gave us an estimate of $12,000! That was JUST the bat removal/exclusion part and didn’t include any remediation (think ‘hundreds of bats living in the insulation’ – I could probably have had a business selling bat guano). After thinking about it long and hard, and doing tons of research on the Internet, we decided to do it ourselves.

My next blog will be about our journey educating ourselves and then actually performing bat removal, exclusion and remediation.