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Bats in Buildings


Bats have long been misunderstood and unfairly persecuted by people as fearsome, rabid creatures, and their appearance around the home can cause a lot of panic. While bats actually have a very low likelihood of carrying disease, are quite timid of people, and are excellent to have around for backyard bug control, there is some risk associated with bats in buildings, particularly when they wind up in the living space. For general information about this topic, see Bat Conservation International's Answers to Questions About Bats and Public Health.

If a bat is flying around in your living area and there's no chance that someone was bitten, the easiest way to get it back outdoors is to shut yourself in the same room as the bat, leave a light on so you can see, open a window or door to the outside, and crouch down low away from the opening, staying still and quiet so the bat can calm down, too. Watch until the bat flies out. It should only take a few minutes for the bat to sense the air flow and detect the exit through echolocation. It will not land on you or "attack" you.

If the bat lands in a reachable place, you can put leather work gloves on, cover the bat with a small container or bowl, and carefully slide a piece of cardboard over the opening to enclose the bat inside the container. If it's nighttime, go outside and hold the container up high in front of you (facing away from you), then remove the cardboard and tip the container slightly forward so the bat can crawl to the edge and swoop out. If it's daytime, walk to a nearby tree or forested area and release the bat at the base of a tree so it has a place to climb and seek shelter until dusk. Bats need to swoop from an elevated position to gain flight, so they have a hard time taking off from the ground.

If a bat appears injured or needs care, and there's no chance that someone was bitten, please contact a NJ Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator near you. The list indicates which ones handle bats.

If direct contact may have occurred between a bat and a person or pet, NJ residents should call their local health department to discuss the case. Most likely, the Health Department will recommend submitting the bat for Rabies testing as a precaution. Additional information and instructions are posted on the NJ Department of Health's Rabies webpage. Your local Animal Control Officer may also be able to assist.

If you're concerned about a colony of bats roosting in your attic, eaves, or other part of your home or building, that's a different process altogether, and a Nuisance Wildlife Control specialist should be called out for an inspection. All bats - like all of NJ's native nongame wildlife - are protected by law under the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act of 1973, making it illegal to harm, harass, capture, or kill bats, or to attempt to do so (with the exception of Rabies testing as described above). Bat colony exclusion must be done following proper methods and seasonal "safe dates" so that bats are not harmed in the process. Physically removing bats or poisoning bats is NOT legal and NOT effective. Fly traps and glue traps should NOT be used in places where bats may encounter them.

New Jersey's "safe dates" for bat exclusion are April 1-30 and August 1-October 15.
Please refer to New Jersey's Nuisance Wildlife Control Guidelines for Bats (pdf, 95kb) for details.

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation's Bats in Buildings webpage offers more information on this topic, including a growing list of professional bat exclusion companies servicing NJ.

Installing bat house in field
To attract or re-home a bat colony, bat houses should be mounted in a sunny spot at least 15 feet high.
Click to enlarge
Both the Conserve Wildlife Foundation and Rutgers University are offering FREE bat houses for evicted bat colonies. Bat houses are a great way to provide displaced bats with a new roost while keeping them in the neighborhood for bug control. Bat houses also reduce the chance of your "ousted" colony searching for another way into your home or settling into someone else's. Bat houses should be mounted at least 12-15 feet high, either on the sunny side of a building or on a pole or post in a quiet part of the backyard. Each bat house can hold around 80 bats - they're happy to share space and warmth!

Want to build your own bat house? There are lots of different designs out there. Here's one that we like: Bat House Floor Plans (pdf, 255kb)

More tips on do-it-yourself bat removal and exclusion can be found in PennState Extension's Homeowner's Guide to Northeast Bats and Bat Problems.

MacKenzie Hall
NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife
Endangered and Nongame Species Program

Bats in bathouse
Big brown bats peer down from their new bat house, which was installed before the colony was excluded from an attic.
Click to enlarge

Continue on to Bat References
Back to Bat Conservation

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Department of Environmental Protection
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Last Updated: April 6, 2020