Cottage Q&A: Deterring bats

A bat hanging from a tree By soul of pic/Shutterstock

How do you discourage bats that are hanging on the outside of a cabin? The main issue is that their feces fall on the deck and in front of the doorway where we walk.—Herb Kuehne, via email

First of all, thank you for asking a question that isn’t overtly bat-bashing. They got enough problems! Cottagers should stick up for them. But bat guano—while excellent fertilizer—can cause lung disease, and bats do carry rabies, so you’re wise to encourage them to bunk further away from the cabin.

Towards the end of the cottaging season, several bat species are migrating, says Robert Barclay, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Alberta. They need snug, protected nooks to rest a spell along the journey. “Silver-haired bats, in particular, seem to hang up wherever they find a spot,” he says. They’ll squish their weird little bodies under the eaves of the cabin; inside folded-up deck umbrellas; or within a woodpile (alarming for everybody if you accidentally bring one that’s clinging to a piece of firewood inside the cottage. Gah!). “I’ve had several people send me photos,” says Barclay. “One bat was even hanging from a rooftop tent on top of a vehicle.” 

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Deterring bats, like deterring any wildlife, can involve some patience and trial-and-error. Flagging tape or ribbon hung from the eaves or the underside of the roof—a cheap and low-tech solution—could do the trick, says Barclay. But, “the only thing that we have found that works is a motion-activated light,” says Glen Robertson of Robertson’s Wildlife and Pest Control in Coldwater, Ont. “It’ll kick in when the bats fly up, and they won’t like being in the light. It’ll at least force them away from the entrance area.”

Of course, your bats will have moved on for good by the time the cold weather sets in, either to winter hibernacula, or, for the migrating species, south to the U.S. or Mexico. Meanwhile, building a bat box for next year can’t hurt, says Barclay. “They’re useful for single males and colonies of females during the spring and summer.” The bats get a house, you get a crap-free deck. Good deal all around.

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This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

Got a question for Cottage Q&A? Send it to answers@cottagelife.com.

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