Step 1. Stay calm if you find a bat in your living space. Running out of the room may make you feel better but actually creates a more dangerous situation. If you leave the room, you won’t know where the bat is. If you don’t know the whereabouts of the bat, you won’t know whether or not it is still in your house. Bats can fit into some very small spaces. Just because you can’t find the bat anymore doesn’t mean it isn’t in the room. It could be under the bed, behind a curtain, in your clothes, etc. By not knowing where the bat is, you or a loved one could accidentally grab the bat while handling something else. And when a bat is grabbed, it will bite like any other animal would. When a bat is seen, seek to enclose it into as small a portion of the house as possible. If he is in your bedroom, close the bedroom door, and place a towel at the base (bats can crawl under doors).
Step 2. Determine if anyone or any pet was bitten by the bat. The majority of humans who have died of rabies (also known as hydrophobia) in the U.S. have died from the bat strain of rabies. Several states have changed their protocols in dealing with potential bat exposures. Part of the reason is that bat bites don’t leave a mark large enough for most people to notice. So even if you think you haven’t been exposed, you may have. Therefore, assume that a bat bite occurred if:
• you awaken to find a bat flying in your room.
• you find a bat in a room with an unattended child whether sleeping or not.
• you find a bat in a room with someone who was mentally unable to assess whether him/her was bitten by a bat.
Notice that the burden of proof is now on proving the bat didn’t do something.
If no exposure took place then go to step 3.
If an exposure did take place, then go to step 4.
Step 3. Open the windows and screens in the room the bat is confined to and then stand in the corner. Standing in the corner allows you to watch the bat while staying out of its way. Don’t stand in the middle of the room as the bat will have to fly around you. Be prepared to watch the bat for up to 20 minutes. The bat will continue to fly around the room trying to orient itself. If it can sense the fresh air, it will fly out the window. You must be patient. If the bat does not fly out the window, wait for the bat to tire and land on something. Put on thick leather gloves, hold a large-mouth glass or plastic container, and cover the bat with the container so that he is trapped inside the container and the wall/surface. Using a stiff piece of paper, slide it between the wall and the rim of the wide-mouth container, thereby trapping the bat inside. Take the bat outside, and reverse the process on a tree trunk. Place the bat as high on the tree as possible to keep him away from children and predators. He will fly away when he is rested.
Step 4. Wait for the bat to tire and land on something. Put on thick leather gloves, hold a large-mouth glass or plastic container, and cover the bat with the container so that he is trapped inside the container and the wall/surface. Using a stiff piece of paper, slide it between the wall and the rim of the wide-mouth container, thereby trapping the bat inside. Take the bat to a facility where it can be tested for rabies. (Call your local health department.) This is important because most of the people who have died from rabies in the U.S. have died from bat rabies, and most of them didn’t know they were bitten. As always, follow the bat rabies protocols for your state which should be found at your state’s health department. Under no circumstances should you harm the bat’s head. The head will be needed for rabies testing. So tennis racquets are not to be used.
What if you don’t know where the bat is?
If you don’t know where the bat is, you are truly in a difficult position because how do you prove that the bat is no longer in your house? That is, how do you prove a negative? Here are some places you should check, using thick gloves and a flashlight. NEVER put your hand somewhere before looking. Don’t do any blind sweeps.
• Check high first, behind curtains and wall hangings.
• Check low, on the floor under items (bats can crawl).
Consult with your physician and health department about your medical options.
Margaret Brittingham & Lisa Williams-Whitmer. Bat Free Belfries: A Guide To Bat-Proofing Video by Pennsylvania State University.