Media & Education
BATS Magazine

Volume 39, Issue 1, 2020

Spring Cleaning

What to do when you encounter a bat

Spring is a common time to find bats in your house. Three-quarters of the bat species that live in the U.S. and Canada have been found roosting in buildings and structures where they can find shelter and protection. Some species like using human-made structures for roosts in addition to natural shelters. Sometimes, these are temporary roosts used by bats to seek shelter from unpredictable spring weather during migration, or by bats looking for a new home due to short supply of natural habitats like caves and hollow trees.

What do you do if you encounter a bat? First, don’t panic. It’s never a good idea to touch bats or any other wild animal—especially without gloves or protective clothing. They are scared and will likely try to get away from you, clawing or biting you in the process.

If you see one bat flying around your house, it’s usually lost and trying to find its way out. Open multiple doors and windows to the outdoors (don’t forget to remove your window screens) and close all doors going to other parts of the house. Turn the lights on and shut ceiling fans off. Be quiet and wait for the bat to leave.

If the bat doesn’t leave on its own, follow BCI’s steps to safely capture and release the bat. Go to for more information.

Be sure to seek medical attention for anyone who comes into contact with a bat or wakes up in a room with a bat. If a bat makes contact with someone or bites a person or pet, the bat must be tested for rabies. If the bat cannot be tested, the person must seek medical attention and receive treatment for rabies exposure. If your pet makes contact with a bat, contact your veterinarian.

Do you have a colony of bats?

Bats usually roost in “structural voids,” or spaces between the interior and exterior of a building. They can enter through tiny cracks and holes as small as the tip of your pinky finger. While bats often look for locations like attics, they can also roost in basements and underneath houses. The best way to avoid having bats enter in the first place is to seal any small holes or cracks.

Signs of roosting bats include seeing bats entering and leaving a location, hearing chirping sounds, finding guano, and smelling a musky odor.

Excluding a bat colony

If you want to remove bats from an area, the best solution is to create one-way exits that allow the bats to leave but not return. However, you can only exclude bats during certain times of the year. States and provinces typically have laws about when bat exclusions can take place, so be sure to contact local wildlife authorities first.

BCI’s website features detailed instructions about when and how to create an exclusion, and it also includes information on the questions to ask when hiring a professional to remove bats.

If you are planning on excluding bats from a certain area, but want to continue to support healthy local bat populations, you can install a bat house nearby so both bats and humans can benefit.

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