The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DBCH) is reminding people to be vigilant of bats entering their homes this time of year and offering tips on how to keep bats out as well as how to remove a bat if it does enter a residence.
“I strongly encourage all residents to inspect the area around their air conditioning units. It is important that the gaps around air conditioners are sealed properly with foam or fabric to keep bats out,” said health department Commissioner A. K. Vaidian. “If a bat is found in your house, and there is a possibility that it had direct contact with a human or pet, then the bat will need to be captured and tested. This includes situations where a bat is found in a room with a sleeping person, unattended child, intoxicated or mentally compromised person. Don’t release the bat unless you can be sure there was no contact between the bat and any people or domestic animals and have consulted with DBCH.”
Dr. Vaidian shared that during this time of year, the bat population increases markedly with new young bats. Residents should remain vigilant when removing window air conditioning units as the days get cooler.
For 2019 to date, DBCH has investigated 86 reports of potential exposures of people or domestic animals to bats.
While bats are gentle and not aggressive, they do carry and transmit diseases, namely rabies. Due to their small size, bats can easily squeeze into very small gaps (1/2 inch), such as in between the upper and lower window sashes. DBCH provides the following recommendations to prevent bats from entering your home:
- When a window is opened to install an air conditioner, it creates a gap between the upper and lower window sashes. Also check that no gaps exist on the sides and bottom of the unit. Bats may gain entry to your house through these gaps. Check to make sure the upper window sash stays in place. Brace it up if needed.
- Be sure open windows have tight-fitting and intact screens. Ensure entry doors have a self-closing screen door.
- When placing a fan in a window, be sure the screen remains in place.
- Keep garage doors and other doors closed when not in use.
- Make sure chimney dampers are closed. Seal all unused openings from the house into the chimney.
- Be sure access points to non-habitable spaces such as attics, basements, and crawlspaces are kept closed with tight-fitting doors.
If a bat does manage to enter your home, and if there is a chance it came into contact with a human or pet, it will need to be captured and sent to a lab for testing. If you are capable of capturing it yourself, confine the bat to one room by closing all windows and doors, turn on the lights, and wait for the bat to land. Wearing gloves, approach the bat slowly, cover the bat with a coffee can or similar container and slide a piece of cardboard or lid under the can trapping the bat. Tape the cardboard or lid to the container.
To make arrangements to have the bat tested for rabies, call DBCH at (845) 486-3404. If it is after normal business hours, on the weekend, or a holiday, call the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health answering service at (845) 431-6465.
For more information on rabies and to view a video on how to capture a bat, visit DutchessNY.gov/Rabies.