Betty the Bat

I was out in the yard a few days ago, and noticed an object stuck to one of our second-story windows. Thinking it was a wasp nest, I made a mental note to look at it from inside. When I actually remembered to do that, here’s what I found:

Betty the Bat

Betty the Bat (Myotis lucifugus?)

It looks huge because I actually know how to use the “macro” feature on my camera, so this photo was taken a few inches from the bat’s face. Look at the screen mesh for a sense of scale. The bat, which my daughter promptly named “Betty,” is actually about two and a half inches (6cm) long from nose to tail. Even at close range it’s hard to photograph her, because she’s sandwiched between the screen and the slightly-open storm window, and I’m not about to open the inner window to reduce the glare.

I’m no chiropterist, but I think Betty is a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). Her current position precludes a detailed examination of all of the identifying marks, and when I asked her to move she ignored me.

Besides providing a handy natural history lesson for Sophie, Betty’s visit has given me some new insight on rabies transmission. People can catch this highly lethal virus through contact with bats. Now I see an obvious mechanism that doesn’t involve spelunking. Had I not noticed Betty from outside, I would have thought nothing of opening this particular window and putting the screen down to let some air into the house. If Betty had lodged herself on the other side of the screen, I’d have a very frightened bat flapping around the room.

Of course, contact with a bat doesn’t automatically produce a lethal human rabies infection. The bat has to be infected with the virus, and the human has to ignore the incident. Indeed, rabies is the only virus I know of where the vaccine actually works just fine when given after exposure. If you have contact with a bat, don’t panic – just go get a few shots.

An even better solution is the one I’m employing: keep the window closed. Betty seems to have taken a liking to her new roost, going out each night shortly after sunset and returning before we get up in the morning. If she keeps this up for a couple of weeks, I’ll probably wait until she’s out on her nightly rounds and then adjust the storm window so she can’t get back in. Much as I hate to evict a possibly-endangered animal, winter will be here soon enough, and I don’t think it would be healthy for Betty to hibernate on our warm window.