We have 8 species of bats in Ontario. Some are migratory and some are true hibernators. The hibernators slow down their metabolism and heart rate as they huddle together as a colony to survive the colder months.
Each winter we get many calls from people who have bats flying around their home during the colder months. This is of great concern to us.
There is a variety of issues that can cause a bat to awaken from hibernation to early. It could simply be a matter of a serious temperature change or often home renovations will disturb a colony, but rabies will also awaken a bat.
Most commonly we find Big Brown Bats in people’s homes and occasionally Little Brown Bats. The Little Brown Bat is listed as ‘endangered’ on the Species at Risk Ontario list. This means that it is protected both under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act as well as the Endangered Species Act.
It also means that we need to try and protect and save as many as we can. Our general bat population is rapidly declining mostly due to habitat loss, a fungal disease called White Nose Bat Syndrome and some man made challenges we have put in their way.
The problem with bats flying free in a house during hibernation time is that we don’t always know why they are awake and so rabies is always on our mind. Rabies is rare in Ontario, but it is still an option.
Rabies is most often transmitted through saliva and because of that we consider a bat bite a serious incident. Rabies is almost always lethal once contracted, but we do have both pre and post exposure shots available for humans. I and some people like me have been vaccinated for rabies and this reduces the risk of me contracting it.
You should also make sure that your pets are up to date on their vaccines. Rabies is a disease all cats and dogs should be vaccinated for.
A bat bite itself is barely noticeable in a human. It is the equivalent of getting pricked with a needle. Something you will notice when you are awake, but you might not notice it when you are sleeping.
The rule of thumb is that all bats found flying in a room where people sleep should be send for rabies testing. To test for rabies the bats brain needs to be examined, so this can only be done after the bat has been euthanized.
If you feel you have been potentially exposed to a bat with rabies please contact your local health unit.
When there has been no humans sleeping in the room the bat is found and no human exposure to saliva (make sure to check your small children for potential bites) we ask that you contact us or a wildlife center near you.
Every winter at Hobbitstee as well as other rehab facilities throughout Ontario hundreds of bats get safely over wintered and released back to their colonies in the spring.
Bats are very small, but should never be handled without gloves. Better yet, don’t touch them at all. They can usually easily be captured by placing a tupperware type container over top of them and sliding the lid (with small air holes) underneath. If possible give them a piece of paper towel in the tupperware container for them to hide in.
If the bat is in flight and needs to be captured you can do this by way of holding a towel up and have the bat fly into it (make sure you are wearing gloves). You can than pop the towel in a container with air holes.
Bats can fit through tiny cracks, so keep that in mind when you are trying to contain one.
If you capture a bat in your house during the winter months, please contact a wildlife center near you and don’t throw it outdoors where it will surely die from exposure and dehydration.
If you are in doubt about what to do feel free to contact us anytime.
If you want to help and are handy, we are always in need of more bat houses. All of our bats are released back where they where found with a bat house.