By Robert Lucke
Sitting in your campground at Beaver Creek Park these days and as night draws near, the darkened sky is alive with the sound of wings mixing with air currents. Chances are those are bats. The resident bat population in this part of Montana is high. Seldom seen, they are often heard and occasionally will get in the cabin or even a house in town.
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has some suggestions for dealing with bats and living with them as well in a pamphlet available at the Havre office.
"Montana has 15 species of bats. Some bats live in groups and others are solitary. Some might roost in a house if access is available and others would never enter a house. Several species have declined in numbers over the past few decades. Because of their beneficial contribution to reducing insect populations, bats should be encouraged. Should a problem arise, home owners can exclude bats using humane non-lethal methods."
Bats should be welcome partners in sharing a city yard or campground in the woods. One bat alone will consume 1,200 mosquitoes an hour. Montana FWP makes the point that people should be bat friendly, even building them houses to live in.
"Bats and humans can live near each other in harmony. Installing a bat house is one way to attract bats or provide an alternative roost for evicted bats. Bat houses may be purchased or you can build one. An organization called Bat Conservation International Inc. is an excellent resource for information about bats. They provide the bat House Builders Handbook as you need plans to build a bat house." The BCI Web site is www.batcon.org.
FWP has suggestions about how to trap a bat that is loose in the house or cabin.
"A lone bat found in the living space can be easily removed. Contain it to one room, open a window or door leading outside, turn out the lights, and leave for 30 minutes to one hour. You can also wait until the bat stops flying, cover it with a coffee can or jar, and slide a piece of cardboard underneath the jar. Take the captive bat outside and release it after dark. Always wear leather work gloves when handling a bat."
There are methods you can use to make the roosting areas undesirable if they are in your abode.
Lower the temperature in the attic by creating an air draft. Use fans or add wall and roof vents.
String floodlights in the attic to illuminate the roosting area.
Bats can live to be 30 years old, and the colony will attempt to return to its traditional roost. Installing a bat house will increase your success rate in keeping bats out of your house and reduce the local mosquito population.
So when you hear those shy mammals pass overhead, remember they are doing their part to make the world more comfortable for everyone else.