Have you recently found a bat in your attic? Or a colony of bats in your chimney? Bats roost in attics, chimneys, behind siding, and barn rafters because they offer a dark, dry space. They look for places where they can sleep during the day without interruptions. They also choose roosting areas on their proximity to food and water sources.
Your initial reaction to finding a bat may be fear. Your thoughts race as you figure out how to kill a bat or start googling contact information for local bat exterminators. Before making any attempts, it’s important to understand what is legal and illegal when removing bats from your home.
Can I Call a Bat Exterminator?
If bat extermination was legal, you could call a wildlife expert to resolve your bat problem. However, extermination means killing, which is illegal for some species in the United States.
Calling for help from a wildlife control expert is the best choice. While they cannot kill a bat, they have multiple removal and exclusion tools. They also know every law regarding bats, which can help you avoid violations and potential consequences.
Why Is It Illegal to Kill a Bat in Your Home?
Bats have been given a bad reputation as blood-sucking vampires. While there are a few bat species that consume blood, the majority eat insects. They eat over a thousand insects every night. Can you imagine how many insects there would be on the planet if it weren’t for bats? We would be overwhelmed. For this reason, bats are essential for the survival of our ecosystem.
Bats are also excellent pollinators for bananas, cloves, and peaches. They are the only pollinator for agave, which has many uses, including making tequila. Bat species that eat fruits aid in seed dispersal and the continued growth of fruit plants.
Recognizing their importance, state and federal governments place protections on some bats species, making it illegal to kill them. That’s not the only reason bats are protected. A few more include the following:
- Bats do not reproduce as quickly as other wildlife. The females typically give birth to one or two pups a year. Slow reproduction puts the species at risk for population decline.
- Bats are killed by humans who do not understand their importance and likely do not know about the laws protecting the species.
- Wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of migrating bats around the world.
- Pesticides used by farmers reduce the number of bugs available for bats to eat.
- Disturbances during hibernation cause bats to use up stored fat too soon, leaving them without a food source for the rest of the winter.
- White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease that spreads through bat colonies and has almost eliminated the Northern long-eared, little brown, and tri-colored bats.
Which Bats Are Protected?
Bat species currently listed as endangered on the federal level include the Indiana, hoary hat, gray, Florida bonneted, and little Mariana bats. In addition, the Mexican long-nosed, Pacific sheath-tailed, Virginia big-eared, and Ozark big-eared bats are listed for protection.
The federal threatened list includes the Mariana fruit bat and the Northern long-eared bats, while the tri-colored and little brown bats are under review for being endangered.
Each state determines the bats specific to their state’s circumstances to list as threatened or endangered species. For example, Pennsylvania endangered bats include the Northern long-eared, Indiana, the little brown bat, and the tri-colored bat. In Texas, the Mexican long-tongued, Mexican long-nosed, Southern yellow, Spotted, Rafinesque big-eared bats are listed as threatened or endangered.
What Are Examples of State Ordinances?
All states implement ordinances or laws based on the needs of the bats in that state. Like the list of endangered and threatened species can vary, so can the rules. Here are some examples:
Florida: Florida Administrative Code rule 68A-4.001 on General Prohibitions and 68A-9.010 on Taking Nuisance Wildlife says it is illegal to kill any bat. In addition, you can’t take, transport, store, buy, sell, or possess a bat at any time. Bats have additional protections during the maternity season. They cannot be harassed or encouraged to leave their roost in any way. In Florida, bats cannot be taken as nuisance wildlife, even if they are causing a nuisance.
Ohio: The code in Ohio regarding the taking of bats is Rule 1501:31-15-03. In summary, unless the bat exposes you to rabies, it is illegal to kill them. If you kill a bat, you must turn it in to the local health department within one day. From May to August, it is illegal to implement exclusions on roosting areas with fifteen or more bats.
New Jersey: The New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act (E.N.S.C.A.) (N.J.S.A. 23:2A-1-13) states It is illegal to “take” endangered wildlife. In this case, “take” means to capture, kill, possess, hold, collect, or harass any bat in New Jersey. In New Jersey, most bats are protected by being classified as endangered, threatened, or concerned. New Jersey ordinances are very specific when stating the exact dates when bats can be removed from structures, which aligns with the maternity season. Between October and March, you cannot get rid of big brown bats overwintering in buildings.
Arizona: All bats are protected species under Arizona law, meaning they cannot be killed. It is against the law to use chemicals or toxicants to get rid of bats. Excluding methods can only be applied outside maternity season and require help and guidance from a wildlife control operator or the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
How to Legally Remove Bats
To ensure you follow all legal requirements, hire a wildlife control operator who understands the industry and has the proper licensure, certifications, and insurance to perform the bat control job. The best time for removal is in early to late fall, from around the end of July to the end of August. In late fall and early winter, bats begin mating. They then hibernate or partially hibernate through the winter and then give birth to pups in the spring and early summer. It takes a few months for pups to be able to fly, so removal cannot begin until all of them can fly out on their own.
Exclusions are the only effective techniques to prevent bats from roosting in your home in the future. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act offers guidelines on how to execute exclusions. They recommend hiring a wildlife control operator for the following reasons because they:
- Inspect your entire home for cracks and holes as small as an inch, which is all a bat needs to enter.
- Have proper permits, licensure, and insurance.
- Understand the laws and consequences of illegal activity.
- Know when to perform exclusions.
- Use one-way doors or valves approved for removal.
- Clean areas with guano and apply sanitization.
- Seal all entry points.
- Implement exclusions to prevent future bat issues.
Finally, wildlife control operators receive special training on when they can exclude bats from any property during the times allotted by the state, correlating with a bat’s maternity season.
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