Last chance to remove bats

Bats form an integral part of Cayman’s natural environment. However, they can pose a nuisance should they decide to inhabit a roof rather than a more natural haunt.

The telltale signs of bats having made a home of your roof include odd squeaking noises at night or a smudge under a hole in the roof. Bats can easily gain access through a loose of missing soffit vent.

Keeping a close eye on the roof between sunset and dark should give a clear indication of whether there are bats in the roof, as this is the time they are likely to emerge to go hunting.

If bats can be spotted coming from the roof it is important not to close the opening, as this could trap the bats inside. Instead call 917-BIRD for free help in assessing the problem and removing the bats safely and permanently without harming them. The National Trust can provide a one-way door that will allow bats to leave, but not return to the roof space. The goal is to seal the bats out not in. Every building is a little bit different, so expert advice can help save money and remove the bats effectively and permanently.

If bats are sealed inside the roof, they will frantically seek other ways out and can end up inside the house, which tends to be rather stressful for people and bats alike.

Bats are the only native mammal in the Cayman Islands. Each one can eat over 1,000 mosquitoes every night. They are an important part of insect control and in keeping the ecosystem in balance.

Female bats give birth to a single pup in late May. The pups cannot fly on their own for months, so if bats are present, it is important to move them out before the birthing season begins.

The procedure for removing bats from a roof is cheap, easy and effective, but cannot be done from June to the end of October.

‘We understand that many people are afraid of bats and we want to help calm their fears,’ said Lois Blumenthal, coordinator of the Caribbean Bat Conservation Project for Bat Conservation International (www.batcon.org) and director of local bat conservation for the National Trust.

‘Bats are benign, beneficial local animals, but they should still be removed from roof spaces to avoid odour problems,’ she said.

The presence of bats usually becomes more noticeable once the baby bats are born. However, the young bats are cannot fly for several months after birth.

‘They remain behind while their mothers go out to feed on insects. Often people first notice that the bats are in the roof during the summer when the noisier young ‘pups’ are present. When the mother bats return in the quiet early morning hours, these baby bats become very excited and squeaky. People hear this squeaking and they understandably want to get the bats out of the house. Because the babies aren’t flying yet, it is impossible to safely remove the bats until November,’ Ms Blumenthal said.

With the cooperation of CUC, Marriott Resorts Inc., Ron Moser’s Machine Shop and extensive volunteer labour, there are now over 80 bat houses distributed in all the districts of Grand Cayman. Ms Blumenthal explained that all these bat houses provide alternative habitat so bats do not try to live in people’s roof spaces.

Homeowners can remove bats themselves using the instructions provide by the National Trust or hire professionals like Truly Nolan Pest control. ‘Our methods work with flying bats. Until the young bats learn to fly, there is no way to safely remove them from the roof,’ according to Ken Smith of Truly Nolan.

Ms Blumenthal explained that roof-dwelling bats are helpful to humans in many ways, including the control of mosquitoes, beetles and moths.

‘Only one species has found homes in roof spaces. All bats living in roof spaces here are insect-eating bats. Fruit bats have never been found roosting in roofs and do not use bat houses. Most species of bats need forests and caves to survive and cannot live in bat houses, but the bat houses relieve the problem of the Velvety Free-tailed Bat trying to enter roofs,’ according to Ms Blumenthal.

The Cayman Islands have nine entirely different species of bats, and these are Cayman’s only native mammals.

According to Ms Blumenthal, bats are more closely related to monkeys than to rats, and are not classified as rodents.

For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky or phone the Wildlife Hotline at 917-BIRD, the National Trust office at 940-0121 or contact [email protected] for free information and advice about removing bats from buildings.

The National Trust can also arrange a free slide show about bats and their benefits. This slide show can be adapted to all ages, from pre-school to adults and features unusual full colour pictures of Cayman’s bats as well as bats from all over the world. Free information sheets are also available on www.caymanwildlife.org or from the office of the National Trust.

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