Don’t Worry (& Call Me if Old Yeller Shows Up)

This little guy was masquerading as a gargoyle on my dresser.

This little guy was masquerading as a gargoyle on my dresser last summer.

In the last couple days I’ve posted on social media about (more) bats in my basement, and a video of a bat flying around in my stairwell. In the last year (mostly over the winter when a few little buggers would wake up briefly to find a way into my living space to seek out some water), my close friends have heard me complain about late-night bat evictions at least 15 times. A lot of folks have warned me publicly and privately about the possibility of contracting rabies. My mother begged me to move out until the bats were removed (and volunteered to pay for a long-term hotel). Good thing I declined; it would have been awfully pricey. It’s been more than a year since I moved in and despite having taken measures to remove them, I and at least some bats are still sharing the place (I gotta think that at least some of the colony – or colonies – are gone, given said measures).

I truly appreciate the concern, but you needn’t be worried.

Yes, one can contract rabies from bats – though the disease in bats is rare. The most recent reliable stats I could find (in 10 minutes of Googling…dogged and trained researcher that I am) is that about six percent of bats in the U.S. might have the virus. It’s hard to say definitively because in order to test for it, the bat has to be caught and killed (and it is illegal in Ohio to kill bats without exigent reason). I am against killing things (other than cockroaches and spiders) unless I plan to eat them (and I’d much rather buy my meat than hunt it). May I never be so hungry as to have to eat a bat (or a cockroach or a spider).

That said, the overwhelming majority of human rabies cases are caused by bats…but that’s an average of two cases per year in the United States over the last two decades. Two cases per year out of a population of almost 319 million. The odds are in my favor.

Bats eat a metric sh*t ton of bugs. They pollinate flowers and crops. They help to disperse seeds. Guano is an excellent fertilizer. An extract from their saliva is being used in tests for an anticoagulent drug (named Draculin, natch). They entertain my cats – though only one cat, JJ, has managed to catch a bat. (More on that in a moment.)

I am not afraid of bats; I even find them kinda cute.

This litle guy was hiding in the pocket for the pocket doors. I trapped it with a bowl and piece of cardboard, then took it outside.

This little guy was hiding in the pocket door pocket (top). I trapped it with a bowl and piece of cardboard (yes I had on thick leather gloves), then took it outside. After a few minutes’ recovery, it disappeared into the night…and possibly back into my eaves.

Still, it is undeniably alarming to wake up at 2 a.m. in the dead of winter with bats zipping around one’s bedroom.

This spring, after the hibernation period but before the breeding season, I hired an expert to perform live exclusion measures. (Had I known before the hibernation period last fall that the bats were residents rather than inadvertent visitors who fell down a chimney or what have you, I’d have done it then). Bat man clearly has a bit more work to do – though not until after any possible pups have learned to fly (trapping them inside the walls, eaves, or wherever they are would be disastrous). That will be around August 15.

The bat mitigation costs have thus far totaled about $1,100 (I’m ignoring the possibility of future bat sh*t cleanup; I can’t smell it so it isn’t there!). But my total bat cash outlay is now closer to $4,000. That one bat JJ caught in late March? In trying to get it away from him, I got swiped with a claw. Or a tooth. I do not know which, or whose. Better safe than sorry (and dead). But the shots? Now there’s a damn good reason to be scared of bats. Warning: Stop scrolling now if you’re squeamish; the extra space below is on purpose.










This was the first visit’s worth of shots. There were three more similar visits in the following 14 days.

Even with decent insurance coverage (for which I consider myself lucky), I still had to pay about $3,000 for the full series of shots. It was not exactly out of pocket, because I am generally healthy and thus had enough in my HSA to cover all but a very small portion. But I now have no medical safety net. Must. Be. Careful.

After recovering from at-times debilitating neuropathy and weird pupil-dilation issues that went on for about 10-12 weeks (I am 100 percent sure the neuropathy was/is from the shots, though my doctor is skeptical; I sorta believe him that the eye thing might be unrelated, but the timing is suspect), I’m pretty much back to normal. My fingers and toes are still a little tingly at times, but I can once again hold a hammer, so all good.

But I’ve developed an aversion to needles.

I haven’t written about this (just posted bat pictures) because I’ve considered approaching the former owners (who were landlords and did not live here) to cover the costs of the mitigation and future guano cleanup…and possibly some of the medical costs (though arguably, those are my own stupid fault). They did not reveal “bats” on the disclosure forms; according to a former tenant, the owners were aware of a bat problem. I’m told by that tenant that the owners took steps themselves to address the problem rather than seeking professional help (if so, it didn’t work).

I’ve decided not to.

I can’t find anything in Ohio law that addresses whether or not one needs to disclose bats, and I don’t know how long the statute of limitations is. That is, said tenant, who lived here long-term, can’t recall when he told the former owners (and there is no record of his having told them). If it was, say, five years before I bought they place and the owners thought the problem was fixed (it wasn’t), did they have an obligation to disclose? (Had they done so, I’d have hired an inspector experienced in bat detection.) No one among my lawyer friends and family members knows personal real estate laws of Ohio well enough to offer informed advice. (I would have disclosed it. I disclosed every “problem” I knew about in my former house, legal obligation or not. There are moral obligations.)

While I realize I could simply ask the former owners about it, given the pictures I’ve posted on Facebook over the last year and our many mutual FB and actual friends, there’s simply no way they haven’t seen or heard that I have an ongoing bat problem. So maybe they truly didn’t know there was one before I moved in.

But I hate confrontation, and there is no clear legal path forward. It would be a they said/I said situation (with but hearsay to support my claim). And here’s the thing: I’d have wanted the place anyway (though had I known about the bats, I’d certainly have asked for and expected a price reduction or allowance to at least cover the mitigation and future cleanup costs). So yeah, I’m disappointed; I just don’t know with whom.

But the most important things are: a) I am on the right side of the “2 in 319 million” equation; b) my hands are once again fully functional; c) I’m available to hire for all your rabid animal removal needs (all fees will be deposited to my HSA).




About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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23 Responses to Don’t Worry (& Call Me if Old Yeller Shows Up)

  1. James Scheltens says:

    Are those shots a lot more painful then ordinary shots? I’ve heard that they are.

    • fitz says:

      I don’t feel qualified to answer; other than an annual one-stick flu shot and a one-stick tetanus shot every five years or so, I don’t have much shot experience to which I can compare these. But I will say the pain was rudely disseminated to all four limbs and my posterior on the first day, and to fewer multiple locations thereafter. I don’t fully understand why, but the protocol is to spread them out in the body. And yeah, they hurt – but I’m guessing they hurt far less now than years ago, when I’ve read they were given in the stomach.

  2. John Wolf says:

    Thankyou for telling me what the odds are. I’ve had 2 show up in the house this year, was sure I hadn’t been bitten, but one still wonders. When I had to clean up where the colony used to be in the walls upstairs behind where the chimney was, I found that the droppings vacuumed up pretty easily, it was much easier to clean up than, say, bird droppings.

    • fitz says:

      For the sake of clarity: On average only 2 people in the US contract the virus per year. The number who are treated post (potential) exposure is considerably higher; I found various estimates ranging from 16k-40k people in the U.S. receive post-exposure treatment each year, and of those, around 80 percent are because of bat exposure. What I can’t dig up is how many people are treated after being exposed to an animal that is actually rabid, as opposed to “better safe than dead.”

      The most recent report for my state that I could find (2013) states 5.25 percent of Ohio bats out of the 5104 tested had rabies (the numbers above are nationwide) – and in my general region, 10 bats tested positive (6 in my specific county, Hamilton). That’s the odds I’d be betting on…how many in your area are likely to have it. Had I not been scratched, I don’t think I’d have gotten the shots.

      It’s an interesting report…and I’m a geek 🙂

      Click to access rabreport.pdf

  3. Kevin Thomas says:

    That is some interesting furniture ornamentation.

  4. It’s a large needle, gigantic shot of Human Rabies Immune Globulin (HRIG), usually right where you sit. You also get a 1 ml. shot of vaccine on days 0, 3, 7 and 14. Worse yet, this isn’t a go to the doctor and get a shot thing from some random doctor; you have to get the complete set from a single practice. And if you have non-refundable airline tickets… tough luck.

    We didn’t get to Disney World that year. My wife was NOT AMUSED.

    • fitz says:

      Here, one has to go to the hospital for the full treatment; doctors don’t have it on hand because it’s rarely needed, I guess. (Or at least my doctor doesn’t)

  5. I feel much the same way that you do about bats (I think they’re cute, like little flying dogs). They’re mostly harmless, as Douglas Adams would say. I could also see myself jumping out of my skin if one unexpectedly woke me up in the middle of the night, but I’m easily startled. 🙂 I’m glad you’re feeling better, needles can be hard to get used to (I’m diabetic myself, quite inured to the pokey things by now). I heartily applaud your efforts to encourage your erstwhile housemates to find other quarters. Bats are very important to the ecology they live in, and we’d all be poorer for them not being around.

  6. bsrlee says:

    Hooray for Modern Medicine, the ‘old’ post-bite anti-rabies treatment was apparently horrendous, involving big needles stuck into bits inside the abdomen where no needle was meant to go. For travelers to places like Asia and Europe, getting the rabies immunization shot/s before you go is claimed to be a lot less traumatic than getting treatment after.

    Lucky for me, I live in Australia where we don’t have rabies, despite the efforts of various self indulgent celebrities to being un-quarantined animals into the country – there are good reasons for bio-security thanks.

  7. jmwagle86 says:

    So sorry to hear about this problem! I had no idea that bats could be such an issue! Or expense! OMG I’m sure I would violate some of those ordinances mentioned, (especially those referencing what one cannot do to a pest inside one’s home!)
    Hang in there, be careful, this too shall pass.

  8. I had no idea about the shots. That’s nuts. Glad you’re making some progress on the issue. I don’t think asking the former owners for reparations would get you far. It would be hard to prove they were negligent. It might just be one of those things.

    Is there a reason you need to wait on the young bats? Are they protected or are you just being mindful of their wellbeing?

  9. Pingback: That’s a Three-barbarian Door – Woodworking Unplugged

  10. Ugh! Hopefully this is the falling action part of your soon-to-be-ending story.

  11. Dave Reedy says:

    So would it be out of line to give you the nickname of “Bat Girl”?

  12. check the siding on your home, any gap roughly 1/2″ to a full inch is enough for them to get into your home as it is old enough not to be built in the modern means today of course. I discovered this info as I had to have my 1880’s gone trough to remove those winged rats. My son before he moved out took a butterfly net and shoved it into the end of some PVC pipe. we used it too much I say before they were evicted in a humane way.

  13. nrhiller says:

    You crack me up. You are such a great writer, so knowledgeable, and f-ing hilarious, in addition to resourceful and brave. This post and the one about escaping from the storeroom are treasures. So glad you keep pulling through in your adventures!

  14. Tom Stephenson says:

    The reason I warned you is I had the misfortune of conducting the funeral of a 16 year old who contracted rabies from a bat. He was not bitten or scratched that we know of. Probably he came into contact with saliva or waste. It is not a pleasant way to die.

    • fitz says:

      Oh my – that’s terrible. How horrible for him and his friends and family. I imagine no manner of death is pleasant, but rabies does seem to be particularly awful.

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