Green Guide

EXCHANGE: Bats gain admittance to Ball State University

Posted October 16

— A bat began flying around a classroom full of Ball State University students at the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry on a Thursday afternoon this past month.

"It was flying quickly, darting to and fro, and began making circles around the center of the room, not up high by the ceiling, but at about head level, no doubt in attempts to figure out its surroundings," Laura Huffman, the center's media director, told The Star Press. "Figuring this, I advised that it would be best to stay seated, not move."

That a bat would enter the center comes as no surprise. The center is housed in an off-campus mansion built in 1927.

But what might amaze you is the frequency of bats found on campus.

The Daily News student newspaper reported recently that a bat was found on the third floor of Park Hall, a coed residence hall that opened in 2007. A custodian trapped the bat against a wall with a broom, bagged it in a garbage bag and released it outside.

Timothy Carter, an associate professor of biology whose research interests include endangered or threatened bat species, said bats get into Bracken Library on a regular basis.

"I come and rescue them and release them outside," he said. "They're mostly on the upper floors, the third and fourth floors, flying around the stacks."

Carter waits for them to land, then nets them and releases the mammals outdoors.

"Big buildings have big cracks and big crevices," Carter said. "People think they are airtight. They're certainly not."

Air exchange systems that remove stale air from buildings and replaces it with fresh air "sometimes suck other things in," he said. "There are screens and grates to prevent it but they're never foolproof. Half of them are a joke."

Bats also have been seen in the administration building. Sometimes Carter is summoned to remove bats roosting at entrances to buildings.

The bats at Ball State are not endangered or threatened. They're big brown bats, one of the most common species of North America.

That doesn't mean you should kill one if you find it indoors. "That would be akin to killing a spider," Carter said. "Everybody does it, but is he going to kill you? No. Removing a bat is as good as anything. The last time a two-ounce bat killed a 200-pound human is probably never."

Bats don't swoop out of the air to attack humans, but if you handle one with your bare hands they might bite in self defense, and several highly fatal diseases have been linked to bats. "The primary one we worry about is rabies," Carter said. "They are a vector for that disease, but less than one-half of 1 percent of bats actually contract the disease. That's one out of every 200 is the estimate."

Bats in buildings are common in the fall. "Making wrong turns is more common in the fall when they are crawling around nooks and crannies transitioning from summer habitat to winter habitat," Carter said.

When a bat started flying around the Virginia Ball Center, Huffman opened the doors to the solarium to give it an escape route to the outside patio. By the time she did that, the bat had disappeared. Students told Huffman it had flown to the top of a bookshelf. After the students left, Huffman opened two windows, hoping outdoor sounds including crickets would lure it out. Animal control came out the next morning with a net, but after searching the whole house it was believed the bat had escaped.

If a bat gets in your home and professional help is not available, approach it slowly after it lands. Wear leather work gloves and place a small box or coffee can over it. Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat, tape the cardboard to the container, punch small holes in the cardboard so the bat can breathe, then release it outdoors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bat Conservation International and other wildlife defenders say bats are not blind; they also can locate objects by reflected sound; they're too smart and agile to get tangled in your hair; they're not flying rodents and are more closely related to humans than to rats and mice; most have cute faces; they're shy, gentle and intelligent; they consume vast amounts of insects, including some of the most damaging agricultural pests; and they pollinate valuable plants including wild bananas and Mexican agave plants, a source of tequila.


Source: The (Muncie) Star Press,


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