John Ostrander: The Bat, Man!

As the Bat-mythos goes, Bruce Wayne saw a bat fly into his window and thought, “Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot. I shall become a bat!” I’ve never been quite sure how the first half of that statement leads to the second half, but never mind. Maybe the bat flying in so freaked Bruce out that he thought he’d freak everyone else out by becoming a bat.

Either I’m cowardly and/or superstitious or I’m a criminal but we had a bat in the house incident recently and it freaked me out. For those of you who are bat enthusiasts, you should know that I don’t hate the flying rodents. I know that they eat mosquitoes and other supposedly useful things. I just don’t want them in the room with me. This isn’t as hotel. They aren’t paying rent. Their place is somewhere else, preferably outside.

We know we have bats in the attic. We’ve been intending to get rid of them but there have been other priorities so it’s been live and let live.

One night My Mary and I were in the living room, watching TV and eating dinner as is our wont. That’s when Mary screamed. There was a bat flying around the kitchen, having found a way downstairs from the attic. Mary’s Amazonian scream freaked the bat and it flew into my office. We closed the door and sealed it off from the rest of the house while we figured our next move.

That’s when we realized that our youngest cat, Hildy, was probably still in the office.

Hildy has become quite a hunter. In one 24-hour period recently, she found 11 baby mice in the basement and brought their carcasses to us. We were both repulsed and impressed and appropriately praised her. Now, however, we had a problem.

This is actually where it got serious. The bat could have rabies. Michigan, where we live, has been having an outbreak of rabies in bats. Hildy had last gotten a rabies shot two years ago but it was effective for one year only. What with moving last year, we had neglected to update her shots.

bat boyWe opened the office door a little bit and tried coaxing Hildy out. She didn’t come, which meant she was busy elsewhere – which meant it could have been the bat. Before dashing in to get her, we had to seal off the entry to the rest of the house or the basement in case the bat flew out again. We draped sheets. By the time we’d accomplished that, Hildy was scratching at the office door to be let out. We opened the door a crack and she popped out.

There were no bites on her that we could see but bats have needle like teeth and we could miss it. We called the vet in the morning and then we realized the seriousness of the problem.

We had to recover the bat and it had to be tested for rabies. Otherwise, there were two options. She could be quarantined for six months or she could be euthanized. The same went for our other cat, Windy, since we had failed to quarantine Hildy the previous night and the two cats had been in contact. We had already lost my buddy, Micah, a few weeks earlier and I was not ready to lose our last two cats.

Mary read up on the Internet on how to capture a bat that involved surreptitiously putting a box over it and then sliding another sheet of cardboard behind the box and trapping the vermin. Yeah. Right.

First we had to determine if the bat was still in the office or if it had gone back up in to the attic. If it had, we were sunk. We snuck into the office with all the caution of Elmer Fudd hunting that Wascally Wabbit. We found it hanging on the door of the office closet, up by the top. A good sign. Not likely Hildy could get at it there.

It appeared to be sleeping. Mary carefully negotiated the box around it but, as she tried to slip the cardboard between door and the bat, the li’l bugger got free and started flying around the room.

Gaaaah! Run away, run away, run away! The beastie flew over our heads and at one point it flew right at my face! Mary almost trampled me trying to get out. We needed another plan.

Or maybe a stiff drink. Well, Mary doesn’t drink, but I needed a stiff drink… but I waited.

Mary devised a new catcher – she took a large clear heavy plastic Tupperware cake lid and duct taped it to a squeegee mop handle. We fashioned bat costumes of our own – I had on my cap and Mary tied a long sleeved shirt around her head. We were ready or as ready as we were going to get. I needed a batarang.

Problem was, we weren’t sure where the bat had migrated. We opened the door cautiously, hunched over, and glanced around.

The nasty bugger was hanging from the ceiling right above the damn door, looking at us.

Squelching a yelp, we got in and closed the door and proceeded with the plan. Deftly, Mary got the cake lid over it and slid the beastie down until we could slide the cardboard behind it. This time we could see the bat and could make sure it didn’t escape. It was trapped. We duct taped the shit out that sucker to make sure it couldn’t get loose and Mary punched some tiny air holes in the cardboard.

Now we had to find a place to take it and get tested. This was now Friday afternoon before the Labor Day weekend. The last thing we wanted was to entertain our batty guest for the three-day weekend.

Some quick phoning around directed me to the state Public Health and Environmental Concerns office and so Mary and I drove up to Saginaw to deposit our little “friend.” I don’t think they get a lot of live bats brought in and there was considerable interest. A woman in the waiting room screamed and ran out when the bat stirred in its plastic cage. I guess she was part of the cowardly, superstitious lot. Maybe a criminal.

We waited some ten days before we finally got word. The report from the lab had been sent to the wrong office but eventually we found out that the bat did not have rabies. Our cats are okay, we’re okay, the bat – not so much.

I swear, though, if another bat finds its way into the office I’m going to get all Joker on it.