TAMPA — “There are definitely more bats this year than usual,” Jeff Norris said as he arranged equipment in the back of his truck. “Maybe it was the odd weather this year, I don’t really know why.”
The owner and operator of Nuisance Wildlife Removal says he’s been busy in this area clearing homes of what he jokingly calls “mice with wings.”
This is a crucial time to make sure that bat populations don’t haunt those homeowners in the spring.
“Now is when they are moving into homes, looking for a place to nest,” Norris warns. “The key is to make sure they don’t have a way in.”
That’s the secret to what Norris does. If there is a bat problem in a house, he coaxes the invaders out and then closes any way to get inside.
“I do exclusion,” Norris explained. “Bats are a protected species and we not only can’t kill them, we don’t want to. They’re an
important part of the environment. I use the one-way door method so they can’t get back in once I get them out. And it’s imperative to do bat-proofing.
“As far as here in Tampa, I’ve found some pretty bad situations,” he said. “At one house, I couldn’t even get into the attic, there were so many. I popped the door open to the attic and there were probably 50 bats staring at me. My guess is that they’d been living in there for 10 years. That was an interesting case.
“I’ve had to put on hazmat suits where the bats were so bad, just to clean up the bat droppings and put in new insulation,” Norris says of some of his experiences in this area. “I’m working on some cases right now, here in Tampa — there’s a church with problems and a building downtown where they’re pretty bad.”
He also noted that while bat issues are generally found in older buildings, they can also occur in newer structures. He says he’s had one situation where he found approximately 100 bats in a year-old house.
Some bat problems are obvious — they can be seen flying in the home, or there are strange scratching noises coming from walls or the attic. Sometimes the problem isn’t so apparent — Norris says homeowners should watch for droppings. If they spot the debris, they should contact him or other removal companies because bats can cause respiratory diseases, be carriers of other illnesses. “And obviously, there’s the worry about rabies.
“If someone sees a bat in their house, 99 percent of the time there are numerous bats living there,” Norris says. “It’s unlikely that just one bat got in, there’s likely more.”
Norris says he “loves his job,” but also understands people’s fears.
“I’ve had situations where the residents moved out and went to a hotel until I was done getting rid of their bats,” he said with a smile. “I get why they’re grossed out and frankly, some people think I’m unbalanced because this is what I do for a living.”
At the risk of self-promotion, Norris offered his phone number — 866-263-WILD (9453) — should someone be seeking a solution to a bat infestation. But more importantly, they should remember to never kill bats if it can be avoided.
“I’ve never had to exterminate a bat, there are other methods I can use to get rid of them,” he said. “They are important, because they eat bugs. That’s why I say I’m in ‘wildlife management,’ because we put nature back in its place.”
Individual bat removal:
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension says if a single bat has entered a home or structure, these steps may be followed:
1. Open all exterior doors and windows in the room(s) in which the bat is observed.
2. Shut all doors leading to adjacent rooms to confine the bat to the area where entries are opened.
3. Leave the lights on and stand motionless next to a wall or in a hallway leading to the room.
4. Patiently wait as the bat swoops around the room trying to find an escape route (contrary to popular belief, bats are not attracted to people’s hair). It likely will fly out of the room on its own.
If the bat is at rest on a wall (usually behind curtains or window blinds):
1. Put on a pair of gloves.
2. Get a large-mouthed glass, cup or plastic container.
3. Approach the bat slowly from one side and place the container over the bat.
4. Slide a piece of cardboard or stiff paper between the container and the wall.
5. Carry the bat in the container with the paper lid outdoors.
6. Place the container with the lid against the side of a tree, four to six feet above ground or another elevated location outdoors.
7. Carefully slide the paper out from between the container and the tree and then slowly lift the container.