DWR warns of bat sightings in Northern Utah

A DWR photo of a captured bat being examined and the results are recorded for research.

SALT LAKE CITY — There have been reports of bat sightings in Northern Utah. Warm weather brings bats out to feed on insects. People may see more bats this time of year because their pups, or baby bats, are taking flight for the first time and leaving their nests.

A DWR 2013 photo of a bat hanging from a capture bag.

The Department of Wildlife Resources says you shouldn’t be surprised if you find one in your home during the summer months, but it can be a pretty frightening experience for some. DWR would like to inform people what to do if you encounter a bat in Utah.

Groups of bats in homes are often maternity colonies of female bats and their babies. The females typically come out of hibernation and take up residence in a structure to give birth, usually in May or June,” DWR Mammal Conservation Coordinator Kimberly Hersey said.

“Encounters with bats seem to spike in September as the migratory species, especially the Mexican-free tailed bat, move around the state.”

During this time of year bats have their babies and begin to increase their activity to support lactation — this is typically when people notice bats. The young are also becoming more active and starting to fly, which also draws more attention.

“I’ve also seen where poorly timed removals can lead to bats in attics, suddenly finding their way inside someone’s home because the mothers are trying to reach their young. So, unless there is a human health and safety issue where bats are coming into close contact with people, we do not permit bat colony removal during this time of year,” she said. “However, you can take actions to prevent them from getting into the living areas of your home. Although it may be inconvenient, you should wait until the young can fly, and then you can safely, humanely and permanently address the problem.”

Hersey said they estimate there are currently up to 18 confirmed bat species in Utah, and they can be found throughout the state. However, the greatest diversity of them can be found in the southern part of the state. The tiny mammals are most abundant wherever they find food, shelter and water.

This is the hardest time of year for dealing with bat nuisance issues,” Hersey said. “Since the young can’t fly yet and are reliant on their mother’s milk, preventing the mothers from returning to their roosting spot will kill the babies.”

Bats are a protected wildlife species so it’s illegal to kill them.

Utah’s bats feed almost exclusively on insects and they rely on standing water for both drinking and as a source of insects. With the extreme drought conditions the state is currently having, it could potentially have an impact on the number of bats in the state.

This Northern Longeared bat is one of over 100 species of bats that devour its body weight in insects.

“Although it may be inconvenient, you should wait until the young can fly, and then you can safely, humanely and permanently address the problem,” she said. “If you suspect there is a colony of bats in your attic, you should contact a local, permitted wildlife nuisance control company for help.”

The DWR will coordinate with that company to authorize the removal at specific times of the year that won’t harm the pups.

Because bats can be carriers of rabies, never handle a bat with your bare hands. If you do have physical contact with a bat, contact your local health department for guidance.

The agency wants people to know if you find a bat inside the living area of your home, open a door or window, turn off the lights inside your house and turn on a porch light outside. Leave the room and allow the bat to leave on its own.

Here are tips for removing bats from your home:

  • Wear heavy leather gloves, place a small box or can over the bat.
  • To create a lid, slide a piece of cardboard between the can and the wall or curtain, enclosing the bat inside the container.
  • Then, take the bat outside and release it on a tree or other high object.

Bats will also occasionally use porches or overhangs as a night roost, where they can rest, digest and leave a mess between meals. If bats are regularly using a porch, try hanging streamers, balloons or other objects (like old CDs) that will move with a breeze. This seems to discourage bats from hanging out.

Tips to prevent bats from roosting in your attic

  • Cool your attic with fans to make it uncomfortable for bats to take up residence.
  • Inspect the outside of the building for openings and gaps in siding, chimneys and roof lines.
  • Seal cracks and holes with caulking, hardware cloth, foam rubber, foam sealant, tar paper and chimney caps. Do not do this, however, when bats have pups in May through August. Fall is the best time to seal these openings, especially when bats are vacating their roosts.
  • After August, when the young can fly, you can also place bird netting over an exterior opening. Staple it down at the top and the sides, leaving the base open. Bats will be able to drop down the netting to leave but cannot reenter the roost. Leave the netting in place for four to five days or until all the bats have left, and then seal the holes.

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