I've been learning about bats over the last few weeks. Not baseball bats...but
bat bats...the kind that inspire Halloween decorations, reside in belfries, and carry rabies. We've seen two different bats flying around inside our house in the last month, and we've also found a couple bats loose in the church.
And so I've been getting educated on bats. I'd rather be reading biographies of obscure 19thcentury presidents (like Rutherford B. Hayes or Chester A. Arthur,) but sometimes it is necessary to take a break from my obsessions and learn something of practical value.
The story starts a few weekends ago, when my parents were staying overnight at the house. I wasn't home when the incident happened, but my dad saw something on the floor...and started to scold Earl-the-Cat for making a mess. But on closer inspection, he saw that it was a bat. So...he went up in the kitchen, got a bowl, and captured said bat, right on the floor where he/she was wiggling. Then he called me on the phone.
Proud to tell me that he had captured his first bat...ever...he also wanted to know what I was going to do about it. When I did get home and saw that the bat was secure for the night, we decided to leave it there until morning, when I would call animal control. We also did a little clueless conjecturing over whether the bat might have had an earlier run in with Earl-the-Cat.
Now...when an 89-year old man captures his first-bat-ever, one might conclude that said bat was not in the best of health. And sure enough, when the animal control guy came the next morning, and we took the bowl off the bat, the bat was as dead as the bowl.
About ten days later, Earl-the-Cat got real sick. He started walking all wobbly, jerked away from inanimate objects (because he thought they were trying to attack him, and generally stayed to himself. I called my friend, Justin-the-Vet, to pick his brain. I told Justin-the-Vet that we'd had a bat in the house "some time back" and he said not to worry...because it took about 10 days for rabies to show up if a cat has been bit. Then I told him it had been exactly10 days. But since it was 10 at night when I talked to Justin-the-Vet, and Earl-the-Cat was snoozing away in some hidden place, we decided to wait until morning and worry about it then. By morning, Earl-the-Cat was over whatever was ailing him, and back to being his normal pestering self...so, we all stopped worrying about bats and rabies.
Until...a couple weeks ago, when another bat showed up in my home study on Saturday night while I was trying to work on my sermon. It kept dive-bombing me. Had this been a dove instead of a bat, I might have interpreted it as a sign from heaven: that the sermon I was writing was pleasing to God. But this frenzied ferocious looking creature, with a wing span of about eight inches, did not seem like an sign of anything holy. It kept flying in and out of my study...missing my head by about six inches, swooping back and forth like a crop dusting airplane.
In retrospect, this was not my finest hour. I already knew rabid bats are a growing concern in Illinois and that the number of bats testing positive for rabies have doubled here over the last couple years. Normally, I would research the situation. But due to the flying bat, I was not able get back to my computer, sit calmly, and "google" a solution to this situation.
"Plan B" was to protect myself with a broom. As I grabbed the broom, I tried to quickly shut the folding door to the broom closet...lest the bat fly in there. Unfortunately, I got the tip of my middle finger caught in the door when I slammed it shut. That really hurt. I got an immediate blood blister. (And it's still with me...and not getting any better, probably because I keep accidently banging that finger on stuff about six times a day.) But I digress: back to the bat.
By this time, I'm not only in fear...I'm also in excruciating pain...and angry. Jie was in the living room, so I shouted at her that we had bat loose in the house. She came into the room where I was, saw the bat, ran back in the living room, and slammed the door behind her...trying to save herself. She didn't notice that the bat had flown into the living room with her, right before she shut the door.
This was when communication kind of broke down between us...for a while: it turns out that when Jie is in the middle of an emergency, she thinks about everything in Chinese. I, of course, am thinking about the problem (and yelling about it) in English. It took a little while to convey to her that she was locked in the room with the bat. But once we came to a meeting of the minds on that point, she quickly joined me in the kitchen.
It is illegal to kill a bat in the state of Illinois. So... if you wonder what happened next, ask all you want...but be prepared for me to simply recite the fifth amendment to the constitution of the United States of America. Earl-the-Cat saw it all, and is not familiar with Bill of Rights, but good luck getting him to talk.
When I was finally able to return to my study...and my computer, I set the sermon aside and started to educate myself about bats. It turns out they are our friends: that a single bat can eat 600 bugs in one hour, that bats pollinate our flowers, and they scatter seeds that promote new growth. They are a vital part of our ecology.
It also turns out that bats do not want to be in the room with us while we are writing sermons...or doing any other things that we humans do at night. They usually get trapped inside our houses because they have chased some bug that has been attracted by the light inside our homes. Bats want away from us even more than we want them away. And so the best way to get rid of a bat is to wait until it stops for a rest (usually against a wall or shade,) then open the windows of that room, then shut all the doors to the room until the bat leaves. It will sense the air flow of an open window and head for the exit on its own.
But if the bat bites...either a person or a pet, it needs to be captured and tested for rabies.
I am now bat-literate. And my heart is more humane toward these flying fellow mammals. I think I'll handle it better the next time.
But even so...if any bats are reading this...best that you lead me not into temptation.