Bats, friend or foe?
The answer to that question is simple if you've ever woke up to a bat flying through your home on a warm summer's night. They instill fear into the hearts of grown men and women, but honestly, they are more afraid of us than we are of them. Most human/bat encounters are with young bats (yes, I know, they are huge when they are flying at lightening-speed back and forth in your house) that have accidentally taken a wrong turn on their way out for the evening bug hunt. Haven't you ever taken a wrong turn in an unfamiliar city only to find yourself in the wrong part of town? Now you understand how that bat feels, however, I doubt you had a giant chasing you around throwing things at you while you were trying to get the heck out of Dodge.
Bats have a great purpose in the world, they eat bugs at astonishing rates. One Little Brown Bat can eat 600-1,000 mosquitoes in an hour and with the increase in West Nile incidents, it actually increases a bat's value as the supreme pest control operator. If you are lucky enough to have a bat nursery (female bats gather together to rear their young) in your area you are truly blessed. Certain bats also pollinate trees, shrubs, and flowers. Without these bats, our forests would be less diversified and we'd lose certain species of plant life altogether. Other bats are fruit-eating and help by seed-dispersing, thus ensuring that certain fruit trees don't become extinct.
Now that you understand a little bit more about why bats are so important to our survival, it will be easier for you to understand why it's important to learn how to live in peace with bats.
The first step is to take the necessary steps to bat-proof the interior of your home/building if you find yourself with an unexpected visitor. While bats are protected, a bat that enters your home is considered a threat and can be disposed of if necessary, bat-proofing your home will reduce the likelihood that you'll have to make that choice in the middle of the night. An ounce of prevention goes a long way when it comes to bats, plus it will help you avoid the unpleasantries of undergoing the Rabies shots. To my dismay, I've recently learned that our local health department recommends that any and all parties in a house have the rabies shots if they have had a bat inside the home, even without a confirmed bite! Note that I said they recommend, not insist. Remember that ounce of prevention, a weekend playing a little game of finding the cracks and seal them is sounding better already, isn't it?
If you're not sure if your house does double duty as a bat house, gather your family and/or friends and spend a few evenings outside at dusk, gazing at your house. Bats have to have water (most of which they get from their food) every 48-72 hours, so if your house does have bats roosting in the attic, soffit, roof, behind shutters or in the walls, sooner or later you'll see them come and go if you look for them. If you see them fly from your house/building then you need to be patient, wait until the season (young are all flying) is right and then proceed with excluding them. If no bats are sighted, then you should still follow the procedure, unless you'd like bats to move into your home, which will happen in due time if they view your home as being favorable to their needs.