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Protecting Wisconsin’s bat species during summer

The DNR is encouraging people to remove bats from their homes humanely and well before summer.
Published: May. 2, 2021 at 11:04 PM CDT
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FITCHBURG, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin is well into spring, which means bats are coming out of hibernation and looking for places to settle for the summer—which could be your home or attic. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) emphasized it is important to remove them humanely ahead of summer to protect the state’s bat population.

Some people also go the extra mile to help the state’s bats by giving them an alternate habitat for the summer, like 18-year-old Luka DiMaggio.

“I thought, ‘Oh wow, these bats are really cool,’” DiMaggio said.

DiMaggio was just eight years old when he discovered bats were not just creatures in scary movies.

“I thought all bats were vampire bats and sucked blood,” he remembered, adding, “They actually eat insects.”

The DNR said bats can act like natural pest control.

“They eat upwards of 17 different types of mosquitos, which is always a good thing for I think a lot of people, including nine that harbor West Nile virus,” explained DNR mammal ecologist Paul White.

However, White explained big brown and little brown bats, some of the most common species in Wisconsin, are on the threatened species list because of a disease called white nose syndrome that has caused a significant decline in population.

“[It] is an invasive fungal disease that affects them, and we’ve seen drastic declines since 2014 here in the state,” White said.

In the spring season, bats are finding summer homes. White said people can remove bats from their homes and keep them from returning by sealing up any holes in the attic or near a chimney.

“Look at all the potential openings and that could be as little as a quarter inch opening that they could potentially slip into,” he advised. He added people can work with pest control on this but could also do it themselves if they are willing to inspect those openings.

White recommends people do this as soon as possible because from June 1 to August 15, it is illegal to evict bats from attics because it could leave baby bats—pups—stranded, and those pups will likely die.

“They’re very vulnerable for an extended period of time, anywhere from three to four weeks, they’re heavily reliant on their mothers and they can’t leave,” White explained.

A good compromise is to build bat houses: structures that mimic the natural habitat bats search for to have their pups. White said this gives bats an alternative to people’s homes while still protecting them during maternity season.

Building bat houses is exactly what DiMaggio did several years ago as an Eagle Scout project.

“I thought it would be good for the environment to build some bat houses, and since I like bats so much, I figured that would just be the perfect Eagle project,” he explained.

DiMaggio installed several bat houses at the Dawley Conservancy in Fitchburg in late 2017. He said he said he has not seen any sign of bats using the houses yet, but he explained it is normal for colonies to take a few years to settle in.

“This summer or next summer, we should start to see some activity,” he said.

DiMaggio said he hopes to build more bat houses in the future. For now, he is patiently waiting to see some activity at the existing houses, trying to do his part to keep Wisconsin’s bats safe.

“It would make it really worth it to see bats start to inhabit these areas and their population start to regenerate here, and we can have a very lively, strong bat population because of these houses,” he said.

Instructions for building a bat house can be found on the DNR website.

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