How to Remove a Bat From Indoors

CC BY 2.0. Gilles San Martin

Gilles San Martin/CC BY 2.0

Few other mammals can strike a streak of fear in the heart quite like a bat can. And even the most bat-loving of us might feel a flutter of total-freak-out to find one flitting erratically within the confines of a room. Bats in the lovely gloaming sky are one thing -- a bat darting about in a panic mere feet away from becoming entangled in one's hair is another.

But whether bats inspire your worst nightmares or bring out your inner Morticia Addams, they need your love.

Although bees have been getting the spotlight for Colony Collapse Disorder, bats are suffering from “the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century in North America,” according to biologists. The poorly-understood disease, white-nose syndrome, has killed at least 5.7 million bats in the eastern United States during the past five years, and it’s spreading. It’s devastating. It makes some of us want to cry. We need our bats.

So if a bat slips into your living space, rather than spraying it with something toxic, frantically chasing it with a tennis racket, or any other panicked moves that may harm it (or you), there are simple steps to humanely get the poor thing out.

Many a bat will simply find its way out if a window or door is open. But if not, it can be safely removed. When it lands, (calmly) cover it with a small box or bowl. Slide a piece of cardboard between the surface and the container, trapping the bat inside. Wait until evening and take the covered container outside to release it.

Most bats can't take flight from the ground, so you'll need to remove the cardboard and hold the container above your head, tilting it gently until the bat flies away. You can also try holding the container against a wall or the branch of a tree and slowly remove the cardboard. Wait for the bat to cling to the new surface, and leave it there. If the bat seems unable to fly or falls to the ground, it may be injured or sick. If so, carefully return it to the box, cover, and call a local wildlife rehabilitator.

Contrary to many a horror film, bats are rarely aggressive, even if they’re being chased. But as with all animals, they may bite in self-defense if handled. So, always wear protective gloves when capturing bats. Only a very tiny percentage of bats have rabies, but anyone bitten by a bat should seek medical attention just in case.