My Turn: I’ll leave making stray bat feel at home to others

This small brown bat was photographed flying during the day in 2017 at Carondelet Park in St. Louis.

This small brown bat was photographed flying during the day in 2017 at Carondelet Park in St. Louis. Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/via Wikimedia


Published: 02-27-2024 7:01 PM

No doubt, some of you Pioneer Valley folks will read this column and want it renamed “A Wimp’s Tale” or something to that effect. “Oh, the poor man! A bat is living in his house. Alert the Armed Forces, call out the SWAT team! How will he survive this invasion from the natural world?”

I assume, dear readers, that many of you have had experiences with bats. This, in fact, is not my first. Around 30 years ago, my 10-year old daughter woke up howling in her bedroom. My wife and I rushed in to find a bat zooming around above her head. Of course, we also freaked out.

The three of us raced out of the room, slammed the door, calmed down, and discussed strategy. I ended up donning a catcher’s mask, gloves and a hard hat, grabbing a broom, and sitting on my daughter’s bed, awaiting the bat’s reappearance. Long story short, I opened the bedroom door, yelled “Open the front door!” and the critter flew out into the early morning dark of Arlington. I felt like I was conjuring up my inner Woody Allen.

No, I wouldn’t describe my actions that morning as brave or heroic, but I got the job done, which brings me to our current “situation.” Ten days ago, my wife was falling asleep in our bedroom when she was startled by a very large bat flying over the bed. She jumped up, raced out of the room and down the stairs to find her savior (me). I may not be brave, but Jan is a downright coward when it comes to dealing with untamed living creatures.

Our house is rather large and very open; there are no doors on the stairways going upstairs or down to a lower level. I grabbed a broom (again!) and scampered up the stairs to see the critter flying wildly around a sitting area. It then disappeared in a linen closet, which also has no door.

I wasn’t keen on poking around through the sheets and blankets, but, as it turns out, I didn’t need to. Our cat, Pepe The Narcissist (see my January column) had been aroused by the excitement. He carefully began sniffing around the linens and then, having discovered his target, began pawing at a stack of pillowcases.

Whoosh! The bat emerged, crossed the area twice and soared down the stairs to the main floor.

I raced down and opened two doors and a window (the outside temperature was 17 degrees), but the bat simply disappeared somewhere inside.

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We spent the next three days in Bat Alert Mode until I spotted him (her? them?) high on a wall, looking much like a smooshed piece of chocolate cake (I like cake. A lot.) Standing on a step stool, plastic Tupperware in hand, I tried and failed to capture the devil. It flew madly across and around the room and, once again, completely disappeared. I should add that we did open doors again and it is possible, just possible, that the bat flew out without our having seen him.

Fat- forward six days: no bat sightings. I posted on our town’s listserv the following: “We are pretty sure a bat is hiding in our house. Any ideas on what we should do?”

Leverett is a tiny town filled with folks who have big hearts, tons of compassion, and an incredible amount of knowledge regarding nature and animals in the wild. Since moving here over five years ago, I have been blown away by my neighbors’ commitment to respecting and preserving the environment and all living things. Wonderful, just wonderful — such sensitivity.

But as I read the many (many!) responses to my posting, one overarching theme appeared: My beloved townsfolk seemed to care a lot more about the friggin’ bat than about our need to get rid of it! Among their suggestions were the following:

If you do capture a bat (gently, they are tiny and have hollow bones like birds), you could try bringing it up to your attic (if any) or to a barn if you have one. Hmm. What a good idea. I’ll gently escort our fragile visitor to our attic, after I’ve arranged for a cozy spot where it might spend the winter.

After someone suggested using a towel to capture the beast, the following post arrived:

I’m wondering if a towel might be too heavy for the daintiness of the bat. Would something like a pillowcase or equivalent be gentler? If it lands on a flat surface you might be able to “imprison” it in something like a clear wide mouth takeout container. Then, with a surgeon’s touch, slip a piece of cardboard or some other rigid sheet between the surface and the bat … Maybe, instead, I should just hire a surgeon for a few thousand bucks? My “touch” might be a tad too rough for our precious interloper.

And finally, this: When we had a bat, we arranged for it to hang upside down from a wire mesh all winter in our basement, covered with a warm blanket over a cage. I put a jar lid of water in the cage, just in case. In the spring it started to rouse and I fed it raw hamburger meat stuck through the cage on a toothpick … we eventually liberated it one mild night.

Shucks. No mention on how lean the hamburger meat should be. From Whole foods? Stop & Shop? A local butcher?

Alrighty then! I realize, of course, that bats are important. They kill mosquitoes, critters I despise almost as much as I do a certain male politician running for office somewhere in the Western Hemisphere. But here’s one thing for certain: If it comes down to lowering my blood pressure or saving the bat, put your money on my aging heart.

Gene Stamell lives in the compassionate town of Leverett. He can be reached at