Holy Bat Guano!

When I got a text while shopping at the Bead & Button show in Milwaukee from my husband, I expected something to the effect of… Do you really need to buy that?  Not:  The bat was rabid. 

While not our exact bat… you get the picture.

Of course, I dropped the strand of flat-backed navy pearls I’d intended to buy and rushed out into the corridor where I could hear above the din of possessed shoppers, one of whom probably snapped up my pearls.

Him:  Hello?

Me:  The bat was rabid?

Him:  Yes, do you want to get treatment?

Me:  What?

Him:  Shots, treatment.  In case we have rabies.

Me:  What are you talking about?

Him:  You have to come home now; we have to start the treatment immediately if you want to do it. 

I wondered if this was a ploy to get me away from the four football fields of beads, baubles, and tools.  (I love tools.)

Me:  Honey, slow down and tell me what’s going on.

And so he did.  One night the week before, he woke me up a little before 11 to state there was a bat in his office.  I was alert in a second, trying to remember where the bat equipment was.

The bat equipment, you ask?  Yes, we’d experienced bats before, so around every corner was a pair of gloves, a coffee can and lid, and a baseball cap.

Before we go further, let me state for the record, THERE IS NOT (NOR WAS THERE EVER) A BAT COLONY living in our house.  We’ve had more than one professional confirm that, but I’ve heard some of the neighbors wondering.

However, after we had a new roof put on the house about 9 years ago, every 12-18 months, we’d discover a bat flying around the house.  Or, one of our cats (not Blue-Blue, by the way… see What Happens When Your Guy Might Not Be As Brilliant As You Thought) would suddenly start looking into the ceiling space with that predatory look of hers.  Then we’d know there was another bat.  And we’d call Animal Control.

Funny thing about Animal Control.  They will capture and remove the bat if they can see it and it is still on the surface of the wall or other space, but… even if it is visible, but beneath the surface line, they will not even try. 

For instance (which happened about 3 bats ago), if the bat is just resting there inside a vent, and is clearly visible, they will not touch it.  No, that’s something I, the wife of a knee-knocking scaredy-cat of a man, has to do. 

The first bat made scrabbling noises and we thought it was a mouse in the drop ceiling of our TV room in the basement.  My quaking husband is also afraid of mice, not to mention injured birds and squirrels. 

He goes into denial and on this occasion, even though 2 cats and a dog were looping their heads around in circles matching the laps by the mouse/bat/creature, he said he didn’t hear anything and went to bed. 

This continued for a couple of days until I said I was calling Norm, the exterminator we’d inherited with the house we’d owned in the country.   My husband thought that was a grand idea as he was leaving on a business trip to Chicago.  (Planned?  I think so.)

Norm came out and poked his head in several of the panels in the drop ceiling and announced he didn’t see any mouse do-do, but… to be safe was leaving a few traps up there.  And, he left.

A couple of hours later… I noticed my huntress cat Emmy batting at a rather large moth on the café curtains in the window seat.  As I moved closer, I realized it was a bat, and… almost screamed.  Maintaining great composure (I thought), I locked the pets onto the screened-in porch and ran to the street where I saw my neighbor pruning his bushes.  He said he’d be right over and I called my husband to tell him it wasn’t a mouse, but a bat.  His response?  “I’m so glad I’m not home.”

The next few bats all run together… we called Animal Control so many times, we were on a first name basis.  They kept telling us these individual bats were just getting lost and somehow getting into our house.  I didn’t believe them.  I was sure one super smart bat had marked our house.  “Come and get it.  Fresh blood inside.”

But, the one bat.  The one who wiggled inside a quarter-inch space in front of our very eyes while we had Animal Control on the line saying if it was in a vent, they wouldn’t touch it and to call them when it came back out.  Uh, huh.  Inside the vent was a bigger vent and who know where the bat would resurface if it chose that path?

My husband and I analyzed the situation and he said he would grab the bat.  I offered, but he wanted to do it.  We carefully unscrewed the vent cover, trying not to scare it, although it immediately started chattering.  And, let’s just say… after a lot of whining  not emanating from me, while wearing the thickest pair of leather garden gloves I had, I grabbed the bat.  I do remember telling my poor quivering mate to please be the man I thought I’d married.  (He was so relieved I’d captured the bat, he forgot to be mad at me.)

Okay, fast forward a few more bats with Animal Control, and other professionals telling us we really didn’t have a bat problem; just a lonely lost little bat once in a while.  My husband glommed onto these comments, insisting we didn’t need to spend $3-5000 to bat-proof our home.  I disagreed, and tension simmered underneath until the next bat flew in.  (I guess if they can’t find their way back out through the door they used to get in… they look for another exit.)

Last fall, I was sure I heard a bat in the house.  Maybe I’d already been bitten and was becoming a bat; either way I had super-sonar ears.  We couldn’t find it; called another professional bat hunter, and were dismayed to learn a bat can live in your house for years without ever being seen.  I started wearing a baseball cap to bed.

Then, last week.  Once my husband found the bat on the wall next to a window, he announced he would be capturing this bat.  I guess he thought it was time to “man up”.  I mean, LOOK how scary that humongous creature is!

This was our bat.  Can you see it?

The bottom line:  He made many false starts during which he screamed (I mean screamed) for my help; then kicked me out when I tried to help (too much pressure).  I offered to grab the bat and get it over with.  He vacillated on what type of container to use as he thought he needed a straight-edged lip because of the position of the bat.  I offered at least 3 Tupperware options.  He didn’t think they were big enough.  He wanted a towel, but decided he didn’t need it.  He wanted a flashlight (even though all the lights in the room were on) and promptly threw it to the floor when he saw the bat’s face after he’d pinned it to the wall with the coffee can.  Or should I say mangled? 

We both felt bad, but I didn’t realize exactly what was going on as my panicked husband kept screaming (I mean screaming—did I say that already?) for help; then kicking me out of the room because he had to capture the bat alone.  Like I said, it was “man up” time.

When he finally emerged from his office with the coffee can and its lid on tight and ran to tape it down, he wondered if we should put it in the freezer?  I said, well, no, even though Animal Control will freeze it to kill it and test its brain for rabies, I didn’t want to kill it.  Then… he said, he thought it was already dead.  He’d “kinda” dissected it with the coffee can rim.  Ugh.

We left the can with the bat on the front porch and the next morning, it was gone.  Apparently Animal Control had already picked it up.  I called them just to be sure they matched the right bat to the right house when they tested it. 

They asked if there had been any exposure because the State was no longer testing bats without cause, a new policy since our last bat. 

Yes, I thought there was exposure.  With two cats and dog (even though thoroughly vaccinated) and my husband and myself in the home, and a bat flying God-knew-where; yes, people, I thought there might be some exposure.  Yes, please test the bat and call me with the negative results so I can sleep at night until another bat gets lost.

But instead, the text with the results.  The bat was rabid.

Hence, a whole new world of info and choices and philosophical life debates opened up for us.

Here are a few factoids:

Did you know…

~ You cannot be tested for rabies unless your brain is frozen which means you are dead?

~ If you have a symptom of rabies (which includes headaches and stress/anxiety), it is too late for treatment; you will die.

~ Rabies symptoms normally appear 9 days to 8 weeks after exposure but might not appear for up to 7 years?

~ It is more common to find a rabid bat than a non-rabid bat?

~ Being bitten is not the only way to contract rabies; a mere splash of saliva into an open wound, a tear duct or wide-open screaming mouth (like my husband’s) is enough?

~ The treatment per person costs around $7,000 for a series of shots?

(Here’s probably more rabies information than you’ll ever want to know…)

Let’s just say after a number of intense and heated conversations (during which I was urged to abort the Bead & Button show), we decided not to do the treatment based upon the official recommendation of the county health department.  We were told our exposure was negligible. 

Apparently most bats only live about 6 hours after going rabid (which makes me want to do more research on that), so if it was flying around the night before, it probably wasn’t rabid… and my husband was sure it wasn’t hissing or spitting at him; just clicking that awful little chattering sound bats make.  He was wearing a baseball hat and his glasses although he did pale a little when I reminded him of his wide-open screaming mouth. 

Still, after talking to the county health official (who does recommend people get treatment about once per month) and also talking to a biologist who works for a bat-proofing company and has come into contact with umpteen bats and has never had a vaccination or treatment, my husband was confident he wasn’t exposed. 

I pulled out my ace card.  What did his mother think he should do?  He said she agreed with him.  So, decision made.  No treatment.

My husband asked if I was coming home early; seems he had a headache for two days.  It might have been the stress, but he was now exhibiting the first two signs of rabies.  Turned out the lady from the county health department was also going to the Bead & Button show the next day, so I told him I had to stay and talk to her.  Which I did and I felt much better about our (lack of) exposure.  We also talked jewelry—bat jewelry. 

Which do you think would look better on a man-choker?

My husband’s headache is gone now (I’m home.) and we’ve scheduled the bat-proofing measures.  It can’t be soon enough for me.  But I am glad I did my shopping before the bill comes in.  J ~ JD here.

PS:  When my husband said he read this post and laughed, even though it was at his expense, I offered him a guest blog opportunity to tell his side of the story, and… we’ll see.  🙂

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3 Responses to Holy Bat Guano!

  1. Candace says:

    OMGsh. It does make you wonder why they are so attracted to your house. But then again, we may not know about the others. Glad you’re getting bat-proofed. You have Zuzu to consider! P.S. Did you say that humans can be immunized?

    • JD says:

      Hi Candace,

      Well, now that we’ve been dubbed with the first rabid bat of the season (possible because many are NOT being tested), it is amazing how many neighbors are sharing stories of bats in their homes, so… we do live close to the trail. Even though both our cats and ZuZu, the dog, had been vaccinated, they each had to get a booster shot immediately.

      In regard to humans, yes there is a vaccination available, but it is rarely used by the general public because of such low exposure combined with the fact that to be effective, one still has to go through a similar regimen of treatment; just a bit different concoction of whatever goes into the shots.

      Personally can’t wait for the house to be batproofed. My husband actually wanted to know why I hadn’t insisted on this years ago! Uh-huh.

      Thanks for your comment. ~ JD

  2. Pingback: Living With A Bat | Sit. Desk. Write.

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