When bats attack!

With little furry bodies, beady eyes and wings like black spandex, bats are rodents of the sky – and the University.

Dave Crandle, the head of pest control for the University, gets calls each week of bat reports inside campus buildings. Inside dorm rooms, sorority houses and classrooms – the bats spook students and faculty members with their frantically flapping wings and screeching voices.

“We do seem to have quite a few bats this year,” he said.

The bats get in, Crandle supposes, when buildings are propped open for summer cleaning or when windows are cracked open overnight. It’s easier for bats to get in than to get back out, and after they sleep all day, they are frantic to escape.

But never fear, Crandle keeps a handle on the situation with his “bat net.” He takes his bat net with him when he’s called to the scene of a flying rodent. Then, he scoops the rodent out of the air and transports it outside where it belongs.

The campus police are also part-time bat rescuers. Dave Weekley, from the station, said the police use a coffee can to transport the critters. By trapping them with an open can and wriggling the lid on top, the police are able to quarantine bats found in campus buildings.

Then, they drive the canned bats out past the edges of campus and set them free.

“We want to make sure we get those guys faraway,” Weekley said.

There’s a reason for that. Bats have been known to carry a disease.

“If it weren’t for rabies, we wouldn’t be so worried about bats,” Crandle said.

Though, according to Brad Espen from the Wood County Health Center, cases of rabies are rare in this area. He estimates there are about 6 to 9 rabid bats found statewide each year.

On the off chance that a human does come in contact with a rabid bat, the consequence could be fatal. Untreated, Espen said, rabies almost always end in death. The hidden danger lies in bats’ tiny teeth. Too often when people are bitten by bats, they don’t even know because the bite marks are so small.

So, if anyone suspects they’ve been in contact with any bat, Espen recommends bringing the suspect bat into the health department. During the summer season, he said, five or six bats are brought in for tests each week by careful citizens.

The University also takes precautions when bat handling. It is standard procedure to transport bats to safe distances and to spray their droppings with disinfectant. Crandle takes the rodents very seriously.

“I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years, and I’m still careful,” he said.

Soon the insects the bats prey on will disappear and the bats will go south for the winter. Crandle marks Halloween as the end of bat season. Ironically, it’s the season associated with spooky, black, screeching bats.

Aside from being Halloween decorations, bats are also valuable to society. They eat insects and spread seeds for plants. These contributions to the community, in Espen’s eyes, makes bats worthy of respect.

“They don’t deserve to die just because they get inside someone’s house,” he said.