Something wasn’t right.
I looked at the clock next to my bed. 3:14am.
What had woken me? A dream? I’ve been having some lots of vivid dreams and unsettled sleep lately. But nothing remained of whatever I had been imagining.
Then I heard a faint flutter and a shadow crossed the room.
It was a bat.
Somehow the creature had gotten in the house, possibly through the chimney (we just had our chimney inspected and the flue was left open) and it was frantically flying around our bedroom.
I shouted to Adrian, who was not impressed at being woken up in the middle of the night. His solution was to go back to sleep. “It’ll still be there in the morning,” he mumbled. But sleep was not likely to return for me with this dark creature sweeping back and forth in front of me.
When the bat found its way into the bathroom I pounced, shutting the door and blocking the door jam with a sweatshirt.
I tried to think of a good way to get it out of the house but couldn’t come up with anything that seemed like it would be effective. At least not in the middle of the night. We only have one door to the free world and it’s unlikely that the bat would have the wherewithal to find it. Plus, the coyotes were howling and the bear has been in the yard recently and while I highly doubt any other animals were coming in, it still wouldn’t have given me the relief I needed to get some shut eye.
So the bathroom was the solution, for the time being. I could hear the poor thing bashing about and for a while it was even screeching.
I did eventually fall back asleep, but not before doing some Internet research and discovering that I’d probably need to call the rabies hotline in the morning.
Bats are a rabies vector species, meaning they are at a higher risk for carrying rabies than other mammals. Humans aren’t supposed to touch any rabies vectors (which, in Vermont, also include skunks, raccoons, foxes, and woodchucks). Don’t touch their fur or expose yourself to their saliva. In the case of bats, if you wake up and realize a bat has been your sleeping companion, you can’t rule out exposure so the official instructions are to capture the animal for testing.
I like bats. And in this part of the country we have a severe problem with white nose syndrome, which is decimating the bat population. I rarely see any bats in our neighborhood. So the idea of turning this bat over for testing gave me pause. Testing means killing. Rabies is confirmed only through a test of the brain matter of the dead animal in question. Neither Adrian nor I spotted a bite (Ollie is vaccinated) and rabies is rare.
On the other hand, it’s fatal. You don’t want to mess around with rabies if there’s any possibility of exposure. And I don’t want to have to go through the many shots that are needed for treatment while I’m pregnant, if I can avoid it. It would most likely be fine, from what I’ve read, but why take any risk to the baby if we can exclude rabies as a possibility?
So I called the rabies hotline when I got up this morning. The hotline operator passed my info along to the fish and game warden in our region but advised me that the warden would probably want proof that the bat was still there.
While waiting for the call from the warden I ventured into the bathroom to search for the now silent bat. Couldn’t find it. It wasn’t in the folds of the towels or visible in the window sills. I started to get worried that it had escaped. But when I took Ollie out for a wander around the yard and looked up to the bathroom window, there it was, visible in the upper corner, tucked into the safest place it could find.
It only took the game warden a couple of minutes and a broom handle to get the bat out of the window, into a ziplock bag, and on its way to the lab.
The bat was very angry at being captured, and it looked robust and strong, which is good, but makes me even sorrier that I caused its demise.
Now that I’ve bleached the bathroom surfaces and had some time to reflect, I’m feeling REALLY sorry for the bat. But also hopeful it doesn’t have rabies so we don’t need prophylactic treatment.