ENTERPRISE, Ala. (WTVY) — The National Park Service declared October 24th through Halloween as "Bat Week," but some folks say these seemingly creepy critters have earned a bad rap.
Though bats have earned themselves a spooky reputation, these animals are actually a vital part of our ecosystem. Local Wiregrass bat experts hope we can learn to give this winged mammal the respect it deserves.
"They eat so many thousands of mosquitoes every night for us,” says Terry Morse, co-director of Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary. “They're also pollinators."
Despite their good deeds, bats are one of several mammals prone to have rabies. But not every bat has rabies; only about 1 out of 100 bats actually carry the rabies vector. Still, it's important not to take any chances.
"You have to have your pets vaccinated,” says Morse. “Because things like this can happen. Your cats and dogs are going to be places where they shouldn't be sometimes. And it might just be a little bat!"
Truth be told, bats aren't exactly fans of humans either.
"They don't want to be around you any more than you want to be around them."
But when the temperatures turn colder, a warm and inviting home is hard to resist for any animal.
"If you've got them in your house, it's not the bat's fault that they're in your house-it's your house's fault!” says Morse. “Because you've got openings somewhere that shouldn't be on that house and you're letting critters in. It may just be a little bat now, but if that hole gets bigger, it's going to be raccoons or possums or something."
But, poisoning roosting critters is not the answer. Luckily, the Wiregrass has a more humane solution.
Who ya gonna call? The Critter Getter!
"I'll come do an internal inspection of the home for their entrance way, how they're getting in,” explains Lee Fry, the self-proclaimed “Critter Getter.”
“Look for any potential entrances. I'll have to seal up any potential entrances first. Then, I install what's called a one-way door, it allows the bats to get out, they just can't get in to sleep. After some amount of time, a week to 2 weeks depending on the temperature at night, they'll all be gone. Then, I can take off the one-way door and completely seal off that hole."
But if a bat flies in unannounced, try this option first:
"The easiest thing is to open a front door and a back door, get a cross current of wind going,” says Fry. “And as long as there's not a lot of activity, just sit down, be calm, and it will follow the wind current out of the house."
Bottom line? It's possible to live in harmony with these winged mammals.
"You can put bat boxes outside and have them around your pool, and keep your mosquitoes under control and keep the population healthy,” says Morse.
13 species of bats live in Alabama, and 2 of them are on the Endangered Species list.