Saturday, September 29, 2018

Bye-bye Bats—for now!

9/26/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

This has been quite a year for animal stories at our house. The latest one has left me shaking my head and wondering how pioneers ever survived various scourges let alone wolves and bears. It all began a few months ago when I went out to Chuck’s workshop. He works downstairs and I store important things upstairs like holiday décor and outdoor furniture.

A few months ago, I was climbing the stairs when I heard what sounded like a herd of mice scurrying around in the ceiling. Then it was quiet. This happened several times until I asked Chuck to give a listen. He didn’t hear any scurrying noises but to appease me he put out extra mouse traps. We found lots of droppings but caught no mice.

A little background. We are used to dealing with unwanted critters. We bought our house in 1989 and there were mice in the walls. One morning early on I found a bat in the shower! Periodically our dogs would spy a bat flying around the house at night. We would capture it with a butterfly net and take it outside to fly away. A new roof solved the problem. The original cedar shake roof was their home. The day the old roof was removed, hundreds of bats were awakened and darkened the sky overhead. Bye-bye bats? Nope.

Fast forward to summer 2018. The bats were still living outside. We thought all was well. Our son John and grandson Josh were visiting and we were going to Bohemia Park for the Eugene Symphony. Josh and I went upstairs and brought down four folding chairs. They were strangely dirty.  Each one had a large, black blob in the middle of the chair. A closer exam revealed sleeping bats!

You would think that I would get hysterical but I found them kind of fascinating. I took the chairs to some nearby trees, moved the bats and we went to the park. End of story? Not by a long shot. The so-called mice noises got so loud in the shop ceiling that Chuck could hear them. An exterminator came who was “pretty sure” that the droppings were from mice. He put down some new-fangled traps scented with pheromones and we caught…wait for it: nine (9) bats! This time I got pretty close to hysterical. We were bat killers!

I spent that evening googling everything I could about bats. Did you know that next to rodents, bats are the second most common land mammals? They are an invaluable insect predator, sometimes eating half their body weight in mosquitos. They eat insects that could damage crops and can live to be 20 years old. They have a bad rap about rabies. And finally, they are feeling a housing crunch because their favorite hollow trees, old barns and houses are disappearing.

Thus, we ended up with not one but two colonies of bats in our warm, sheltered shop. They found an entry and exit area where birds had picked holes in the walls. Then I learned that once they nest in your home they will come back to the same place year after year. So, I went looking for a professional who could evict the bats humanely.

Here’s a quick overview of how to evict bats:
    •    Find all outside entrances
    •    Install one-way bat check valves that allow bats to leave but not return.
    •    Leave in place 5-7 days
    •    Check to make sure all bats are gone.
    •    Remove the check valves and seal the entrances.

Sounds easy. Right? Wrong! Fish and Game regulations apply to Oregon bats. The company that we chose came out in mid-August and explained that our bats would soon be migrating to Mexico! They could not be evicted until after the first of Sept. Their babies had to be strong enough to fly with them to hibernate over the winter. Then, they will return next spring to their favorite new home at CG Lake.

This was getting so complicated that it made my head spin. What to do?  Well, one evening around the first of the month, Chuck was out pottying the dogs. Suddenly, he looked up and saw hundreds of bats circling and taking flight. The next day, the bats were gone out of the shop. We had dodged one bullet. Then came the cleanup. If I had more room, I would tell you the process in detail. Suffice it to say that it involved men wearing masks, removing ceiling panels, vacuuming guano, sweeping, sealing holes and quarantining the area.

We were told that the bats have good memories. They will return next year—to our house. So we’re going with a plan to put up bat houses and attract them with some of their saved guano. I’ll let you know how that works out.

 Hasta la vista murciélago!

 Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox Sept. 2018 

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