A Bat In The Belfry

Okay, so a second floor walk-up doesn't qualify as a belfry. So sue me.

That didn't stop a small brown bat from somehow zeroing in on a tiny kitchen window less than a foot square last night while we were working on our computers, and finally finding its way into our living room where it circled the ceiling lamp almost silently a few times before settling down into the folds of our curtains.

While my wife quickly gave the alarm and scrambled for cover, I couldn't decide for myself what the thing was for a few seconds.

A moth? No, too big, although I have seen a few rather large moths in these parts.

A bird? No, too quiet. The thing's flight made almost no noise at all, and the wings didn't look right for a bird.

A bat... well, I guess so.

Getting a closer (if fuzzy and unfocused) look at the visitor also seemed to indicate that it was a small brown bat.

Of course, women have this amazing ability to hold two diametrically opposed ideas simultaneously; so while the tiny creature was immensely frightening and infinitely scary, it was also small and furry and cute and therefore must not be harmed.

For myself, I was also in favor of somehow convincing the bat to leave rather than attempting to squish it, if for no other reason than I wished to avoid the subsequent necessity of cleaning up squished bat remains from the living room floor.

My first strategy for removing our new pet was to trap it between a metal colander and a tennis racket and then carry it outside or at least aim it out our balcony window. While shaking the curtains did convince the little guy to temporarily vacate the space between our curtains, there was no way to catch him with these objects.

Standing in the doorway between the living room and the hallway to discourage him from flying into the rest of the apartment, we shook him loose from the curtains to try and capture him. Or rather, I did so and my wife provided up-to-the-minute intelligence from behind the locked bathroom door.

This proved rather fruitless. The slightest movement of either of my implements towards the creature just caused it to veer quickly and silently away, re-settling on a new portion of curtain.

A quick consultation with Google about how to catch a bat revealed that bat sonar is apparently so sensitive that not only do you need a net to catch one in flight, but you need a special kind of nearly invisible net that requires a license to possess. Neverminding the license, I knew there was no way to find such an object anywhere nearby, especially not past nine in the evening.

I changed my tack, now trying to herd the little beastie towards the open balcony door and to the open window beyond; both were much larger than the opening he'd found to get in, so I thought he'd have no trouble finding it.

However, no matter how many turns around the room he'd take, he never dropped more than half a meter from the ceiling, and the door was not that tall. For whatever reason, he just wasn't seeing that open door, and always returned to the curtains.

At last I decided to remove the bugger's cover by pulling down the curtains. This had an unintended side effect. The curtains in that room are suspended from a plastic track that is held to the ceiling by a plastic nail-and-sheath system; you drill a hole in the ceiling, push in the plastic sheath, and then drive in the nail. The nail causes the sheath to expand, and the friction between the serrated sides of the sheath and the ceiling material holds up whatever you suspended from the nail head. At least, for awhile.

Eventually the nails start to slip, and in this case, one corner of the curtain track was coming away from the ceiling. This opened up a gap that the bat found to be a nice dark hiding place.

That is, until I pulled the curtains down off the track, removing the weight that had opened up the gap and causing the track to snap back up against the ceiling, trapping the little guy there. Not exactly what I had intended.

I left one curtain up, directly opposite the balcony door, figuring that once roused again I'd have a better chance of getting it out the door if the only cover was right next to it. I used the tennis racket to pry the track away from the ceiling again and open up the gap.

Instead of the bat being surprised and flying away over my head, as I had expected, it fell off the edge of the track and hit the window sill with a nearly silent, sickening little thwap.

Again, not quite what I had intended. I wondered if perhaps the pressure of the track had injured it, or perhaps torn or broken a wing. The bat was pretty small and didn't look terribly durable. Poking it with a pencil, the bat didn't just fly away, but neither was it completely motionless. Thinking it dead or near dead, we wondered if it could just be scooped into a plastic bag and disposed of, but something made me not quite so sure.

Instead, I put the colander over the bat and slowly slid it towards the edge of the windowsill, where I held the tennis racket ready. As I got near the edge, the bat let out a couple of squeaks and I realized my suspicions were correct: it might be hurt, dazed, or in shock, but it wasn't dead. Snapping the tennis racket against the colander, I finally got the little bugger trapped and then went to the balcony windows to release it, whereupon it immediately gave out another couple of squeaks and flew straight out across the street and into a nearby tree, apparently unharmed.