It’s Summertime, But the Living Isn’t Necessarily Easy For Bats

It’s Summertime, But the Living Isn’t Necessarily Easy For Bats

South Dakota Fish, Game & Parks
South Dakota Fish, Game & Parks

PIERRE, S.D. – -( Summer is a time for fun and relaxation. It’s also a period when bats and people may clash, usually to the detriment of bats.

At a time when we’re aggravated by mosquitoes and concerned about the diseases they carry, bats should be our heroes.

South Dakota bats eat an enormous quantity of flying insects, including mosquitoes and many forest and agricultural pests. Bats sorely need a better public relations image, since many myths about them are readily accepted as fact.

Particularly at this time of year, bats need a little indulgence and compassion to get them through an important and challenging summer breeding season.

The most common bat species in South Dakota form maternity colonies, composed of a small group of females with their single young, called pups. Female bats benefit from roosting together, and they often use the same roost year after year. This traditional attachment to the roost adds to a homeowner’s challenge if the roost happens to be in an attic or other structure.

Many homeowners want a quick and permanent fix to a complex situation. If your home hosts a maternity roost, it is difficult and even unwise to attempt to evict the tenants until after the pups are independent of their mothers. Simply killing adults or closing entry points during the summer may make the situation worse. Young bats awaiting the return of their mothers may be forced to leave the safety of the roost in search of the adults, possibly traveling into your living space. They may also die in the walls or vents during their searching.

What about poisoning all of the bats? This is a dangerous and irresponsible course of action. Bats are mammals like us, and poisons that kill bats may readily harm people and their pets. Poisoning may not kill all the bats, leaving sick bats to be encountered by children and pets. In addition, no poison is legal for use against bats in South Dakota.

Homeowners should not assume that all pest control companies are knowledgeable about safe, humane, and effective bat exclusion.

Any method that involves killing adult bats at a potential maternity roost during the summer should be viewed with skepticism. Even if dealing with a roost that isn’t a maternity colony, exclusion can be done without killing bats by following some simple techniques. Exclusion involves identifying likely entrances and sealing all but one entrance to assure that all bats have left the structure. The final entrance is then sealed and the structure monitored at dusk to see if bats are still entering and exiting the structure.

If a maternity roost is suspected, bat exclusion should be done prior to or after the breeding season. A safe window for bat exclusion is before mid-May and after Sept. 1. Specific instructions for conducting safe and effective bat exclusion can be found at the South Dakota Bat Working Group Web site:

A recent incident in the Pierre area highlights the vulnerability of bats in maternity roosts.

Females with dependent pups were killed or wounded with BB guns at a state nature area. Besides violating the law, the individuals harmed a group of beneficial pest eaters.

The Parks Division of GFP reminds the public that no firearms, including BB and pellet guns, are allowed in certain nature areas. Visitors must be aware of regulations at sites they visit, since possession of firearms is allowed in some areas but not others.

The purpose of the Department of Game, Fish and Parks is to perpetuate, conserve, manage, protect, and enhance South Dakota’s wildlife resources, parks, and outdoor recreational opportunities for the use, benefit, and enjoyment of the people of this state and its visitors, and to give the highest priority to the welfare of this state’s wildlife and parks, and their environment, in planning and decisions.