Bats a handy mammal to have around

Shannon Hurst's My Town column.

This week things were a little batty and I am not referring to the weather which brought 20+ temperatures early in the week and snow on the peaks on the weekend.

What I am talking about is the abundance of little bats that have recently been weened from their moms and are out working hard to control the mosquitos. If one was out walking in the evenings after the sun set along a road with street lights they might have noticed an increase in flying creatures these past few weeks. Recently we had to the opportunity to go and rescue four little ones from a friend’s house and it turned our whole day in to quite the adventure. After catching the tiny things with gloves and putting them in a bucket, we headed home to learn about bats. Most people often persecute bats due to the fact they are not understood and the role they play in movies tends to make people fear or dislike them. But they really are extraordinary mammals  that help out in many ways and there are many interesting facts.  First off, bats are not blind and they are not filthy little critters. They are actually meticulous about keeping their fur clean and groomed. Any smell associated with bats is due to the accumulation of guano below their roosting areas. They do have tiny little teeth that are able to bite but contrary to the common belief, less than one per cent of bats ever contract rabies. This is not to you should not take precautions as rabies is a deadly disease, but most bats don’t carry it. Furthermore, they are not out to “get” people. They would not intentionally land on humans and the only time they would bite is as a defence.

The ones in our area are insectivores and they consume a phenomenal amount of night flying insects during the spring, summer and fall. Seeing as they munch extremely high numbers of mosquitos it stands to reason we should want bats around.

It is with this last fact in mind that the boys and I decided to make a bat house for our four little friends. There are tons of great plans for building a variety of bat boxes on the internet and they are relatively easy to make.

We chose a three chamber bat house and the most tedious part was notching little lines every inch on the chamber boards for them to climb up and cling too. Needless to say we had a new home built in a few hours and after we let the caulking dry along the roof we were ready to relocate the little creatures. Due to the fact the four we had were very small we also learned that a mom bat usually has one baby and weens it between six and eight weeks. After researching a little more we learned that they were definitely youngsters and that if we put them in the box they would most likely call it their home.

As the sun set we put our little friends in their new home and went out and hung it on a tree ten feet in the air as per instructions. Whether or not they are still using their new home, is hard to say even though the boys have spent hours sitting and watching the house to see the little ones fly out. Either way we are happy to have learned about bats and welcome them to our yard.

If you do have bats in your house, even the exterminators advise not hurting them as they are so important to our lives. However, you should read up on how they could be getting in and take measures to ensure they have a better residence to reside in.

– Shannon Hurst writes the weekly My Town column.