Energy & Environment

Vermont Fish & Wildlife wants to provide homes for endangered bats

Bat houses are a great alternative for bats you need to evict from your home but they require some maintenance in the late fall or winter to clean out abandoned wasp nests and repair any leaks. Courtesy photo from Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

As Halloween draws near, spooky images of ghouls and ghosts spring to mind. But this year, Vermont Fish & Wildlife is asking people to think of bats — another Halloween mascot — in a different light.

“Bats are a very important part of our natural world and now, more than ever, they need our help,” said Alyssa Bennett, a small mammals biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. ​​“So, we celebrate ‘Bat Week’ in the days leading up to Halloween.”

Bat Week takes place October 24-31 to help raise awareness about the vital ecological function of bats and to dispel the myths and misinformation surrounding them. This year Bennett will give a talk about Vermont’s nine native bat species at the Intervale Center in Burlington on Oct. 28. The public can register for it to learn about bat conservation.

Five of Vermont’s bat species are listed as either threatened or endangered. Biologists estimate that the populations of Vermont’s two most common bat species — the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat — have declined more than 90%.

According to Fish & Wildlife officials, white-nose syndrome has caused the loss of more than 5.7 million bats in the Northeast since 2006, and has affected all six of Vermont’s cave bat species — bats that hibernate in caves and mines during the winter. The disease is caused by a fungus that invades the skin and damages the tissue in hibernating bats and turns bats’ noses white.

Though bats should never be handled without heavy gloves because of potential rabies exposure, white-nose syndrome and the fungus that causes it are harmless to humans and to other animals.

An easy way to have a big impact in bat conservation efforts, Bennett said, is to give bats their own homes — and the state is encouraging people to install bat houses on their property.

While bats will typically roost in attics, barns and other structures during the summer, they start scattering in the fall in preparation for their annual migration or hibernation period. That makes this the perfect time to evict them from your own building into the much more suitable bat house.

To learn how to safely remove bats from a building, visit the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website.

Bat houses offer bats shelter outside of your house and away from your pets — a safe place to stay and continue to eat local insects that might be forest, human or agricultural pests. Bat houses are also a secure place for female bats to have their offspring, an important element in repopulating endangered species.

Locations with rare colonies of the little brown bat, an endangered species, are eligible for free bat houses from Vermont Fish & Wildlife. Courtesy photo

Bennett recommends that a bat house be at least 10 feet off the ground and attached to a solid structure, such as a building or a tree.

On average, she said, people need to spend just a few minutes a year maintaining a bat house, with a modest price for acquiring one in the first place. She estimated that the price of a bat house would run between $50 and $200, with no likely future costs. An internet search shows bat houses for sale at prices ranging from $16 to $273. The $273 item is actually three separate bat houses, all sharing the same mounting pole.

Sites where there are rare colonies of little brown bats, one of Vermont’s endangered species, are eligible for free bat houses provided by Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

“It’s really rare when we have a case like this where endangered species are living so close to people,” Bennett said. “And in actuality, because they like to roost in human-made structures, they are really dependent on us for their survival.”

People can also help bat conservation efforts by visiting the department’s website to report large colonies of bats living in structures.   

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Rachel Nostrant

About Rachel

Rachel Nostrant is a 2021 graduate of Pennsylvania State University, with bachelors of arts degrees in journalism and international politics. Rachel is also a master’s candidate for business and economics reporting at New York University. She is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and an editorial fellow at Military Times.

Email: [email protected]

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