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Handling And Launching Bats

Bats can bite, and transmit rabies, so you should never touch a bat with your bare hands. If you find bats inside your home it is best to call a wildlife professional to help you through the proper removal and safety procedures. However, if you decide to catch and release the bat yourself, there are some steps that should be followed for both your safety and the bat's well being too.

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Handling Risks

Some people believe bats are aggressive because they have had bats swoop down on them while swimming or camping, most often in the evening. However, it is much more likely that the bat was after the mosquito hovering over your head than it was the bat was after you.

Bats are not normally aggressive, but they do have teeth, they do bite, and they can transmit rabies through their bite, saliva or neural tissue.
So, due to the risk of injury, bites and rabies, you should never touch a bat (either dead or alive) with your bare hands.

But there are some ways to safely remove a bat from your home without coming into direct contact with it.

Do not do it by waving a broom around in the air at a bat. Bats are not usually aggressive, but there is no reason to provoke them.

Sometimes it is simply a matter of opening all the doors and windows, if able to fly, the bat will eventually follow the airflow to the outdoors.

However, most bats cannot fly without dropping first, and once "grounded" will not be able to take flight without assistance. We've prepared a guide for you on how to safely assist a bat under such circumstances.

 

Launching A Bat

For the most part, bats take flight by dropping first, and do that best when they have about 15' of airspace below them. Occasionally a bat can start to fly without dropping first. This ability usually occurs with big brown bats that are on a slick surface such as a tile or wood floor.

When in need of assistance, there are a few ways to assist a bat that is stranded on the ground. This basically involves gently and carefully helping them reach the required height they need to be to take flight.

You can do this either by "launching" the bat into flight, or by providing it with access to a tree that it can climb on its own.

Here's what you need to know before taking on either task:

  • It is always easiest to simply take the bat outdoors and set it at the base of a tree or on a tree. This will allow the bat to climb up and fly away when it is ready to do so, after dark, when there are fewer predators that can gobble it up in mid-air. If you have no trees nearby, you can use the shovel method.
  • The best method is to gently scoop the bat up with a garden spade shovel like the one seen in the photo below. Be careful though, a bat's wings are just two thin layers of skin that can easily be damaged.
    bat on shovel preparing to be launched into flight
  • If you decide to try the shovel method, please remember that the bat must have 15' of airspace to fly. With this in mind - stand on the grass and gently but briskly throw the bat high enough into the air to take flight.
  • If the bat is injured, it usually won't fly, even after a third launch attempt. This injured bat must be taken to a bat rehabilitator or be euthanized.
  • Mothers sometimes carry pups on their backs. If a bat has several babies clinging to it, it will usually not be able to fly and should be taken to a rehabilitator.
 
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