Bats plague city homes

High temperatures drive the flying mammals into cooler places indoors.
Thursday, August 28, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:26 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Recent hot weather has created an unusual problem for some Columbia residents. Bats that often roost near buildings are seeking cooler temperatures inside people’s homes.

“We usually don’t get many August calls on bats, but in the past week when it was hot we started getting all these calls,” said animal control officer Barbara Ball.

The Columbia Board of Animal Control received 12 calls last week from people with bats in their homes. Ball said that because some types of bats can fit through spaces the size of a quarter, people often won’t notice until the bats fly.

Live bats are captured in coffee cans. Bats that seem normal are released, while problem bats are euthanized then sent to a state lab in Jefferson City to be tested for rabies.

Ball said bats are tested if there is any chance they have come into contact with children.

“We had a call to catch a bat flying around in a day care with a bunch of babies in cribs,” she said. The bat had entered a baby room at A World of Discovery Daycare but was captured. It tested negative for rabies.

Columbia resident Mike Reilly has had some trouble with bats as well. He saw one flying in his home Saturday night while he was getting out of bed. Although that bat flew out a window, Reilly found another one in his house the next day. He tried to catch it, but his wife insisted on calling the Animal Control Board.

“My wife, Stacia, was so scared I swear she tried to burrow into the wood floor,” Reilly said.

Animal control officer Jean Easley caught the flying bat with a fishing net. She said she’s been surprised at how much bats scare people, but she is sympathetic.

“If you haven’t seen a bat, you haven’t seen a bat,” Easley said. “It’s OK to be scared.”

Rick Clawson, resource scientist at the Missouri Department of Conservation, says that in hot weather bats that roost around buildings, access walls and chimneys will first seek a cooler roost that they’re already familiar with. If they can’t find a tolerable temperature, however, they will sometimes enter homes.

“Bats can tolerate temperatures that are quite warm, but even they get stressed when the weather’s this hot,” Clawson said.

Clawson said that because bats are so quiet, people are often unaware of how many are around. He said bats typically pose little threat to residents other than inconvenience, but the danger of disease is always an issue with wild animals.

“A low percentage of wild bats in Missouri carry diseases like rabies, and if the bat looks sick or is on the ground, that’s not normal,” Clawson said.

He advises people to avoid touching a bat with their bare hands, but instead to wear thick gloves or wrap the bat in a towel. If the bat comes into contact with a person or a pet, an animal control officer can trap the animal and send it for a rabies test.

Ball said animal control officers are on call 24 hours a day at 449-1888.

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