falsehood is that bats are protected by laws such as the federal
Endangered Species Act and can’t be legally removed from an attic. State
and federal biologists say that this just is not so, and that nuisance
problems with bats can be resolved safely.
despise bats because they perceive these animals to be dangerous carriers
of disease," says Jim Ozier, a senior wildlife biologist for the Georgia
Department of Natural Resources—Wildlife Resources Division. "While bats
can transmit rabies to people, such incidences are extremely rare. Most
bat bites are a result of an obviously sick bat being handled."
As with most
wildlife species in Georgia, bats are protected by state law. It is
illegal to intentionally capture, kill, or harm any of the sixteen species
found in the state. Most species roost in caves and trees, but a few
species have adapted to using human structures for shelter. The Georgia
Department of Natural Resources allows removal of these bat colonies on a
case-by-case basis, usually with little expense to the homeowner and no
harm to the bats.
As for federal
law, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Supervisor, Sandy Tucker, says
that the Endangered Species Act does not apply in most situations
involving humans and bats in Georgia. Tucker, head of the USFWS Georgia
Ecological Services office, says that only two bat species found in
Georgia are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the gray bat and
Indiana bat. These live in either cave-like or upland forest habitats in
the northwestern part of Georgia, and neither favor human dwellings.
Even if a federally protected bat species were involved, Tucker says;
“There’s flexibility under the Endangered Species Act that gives choices
when conflicts occur between human health and listed species.”
As for removing
bat colonies from homes, the three species usually found in human
structures are the evening bat, big brown or the Mexican free-tailed bat.
Their colonies can be excluded from structures by sealing openings and
using temporary excluder devices that allow bats to fly out in the evening
to feed, but prevent their return to the attic.
Excluders can be
built by tacking a sheet of plastic or netting across the top of the
entrance hole, down along each side two feet past the hole and then left
unattached at the bottom. In a few days when all the bats are gone, remove
the excluder, and seal the hole. Many people install their own excluders,
but a list of certified professionals can be obtained by contacting DNR’s
Special Permits Office at 770 761-3044.
The best time to
install an excluder is during the spring prior to May 1st or in the fall
after August 15th. During the summer, flightless infant bats might be
present, and these would die once the adults are excluded. If bats are
getting into someone’s living space or otherwise presenting a health
hazard, they can be excluded at any time.
In fact, Ozier
says that people should act quickly if bats are discovered in a building
where they are not wanted. “The longer the bats are allowed to use the
site, the larger their numbers are likely to grow and the more guano that
will be deposited inside.”
Guano, or bat
excrement, sometimes accumulates at a roost site and can cause structural
damage to the building. Additionally, a fungus sometimes grows on the
droppings. If large quantities of fungal spores are inhaled, a lung
infection known as histoplasmosis can result.
should also seek technical advice from qualified sources before attempting
to handle bat exclusions themselves. If they hire someone to do the job,
they should make sure the person is qualified, permitted and aware of
proper exclusion techniques.
undoubtedly one of the most under-appreciated animals that contribute to
our diverse natural heritage. They are the only mammals that can truly
fly, and though they somewhat resemble mice, they are not closely related
to rodents and do not gnaw. The bats in Georgia aid humans by eating as
much as half their weight each day in mosquitoes, beetles, moths and other
insects. A single little brown bat can alone catch up to 1,200 insects in
just one hour.
install specially designed roosting structures, known as bat boxes, which
give bats a home away from human homes. If the bats find the roost box
suitable, they remain in the area to continue their insect assault.
“Bats are a
valued and economically important component of our natural heritage. We
should strive to conserve habitat and develop a greater appreciation for
bats and other wildlife,” concludes Ozier. “However, there are times when
bats seek shelter in places where they cannot be tolerated. These
situations should be handled sensibly and responsibly to prevent harm to
the people and the bats involved.”