SALINE, Mich. (WXYZ) — It's no secret that bats play an essential role in the ecosystem. The mammals help with pest control, pollinating plants, and dispersing seeds while saving farmers hundreds of millions of dollars.
But they can also become a nuisance if they dwell in people’s homes, especially during the roosting season.
A family in Saline not only got a taste of that but they were also forced out of their home. But their suffering came with a silver lining, it led to a policy change when it comes to bat removal guidelines.
Moving into a 100-year-old home with his wife and 6-month-old was Montee McCann's dream. But he never thought in his wildest dreams that he would spend most days tapping the bedroom walls fearing to hear the sounds of bats crawling.
"Eventually it got so bad that we couldn’t sleep in that room," said McCann.
And to make matters worse ...
"I saw one crawl out from under here, just crawl out, (pointing to the under-sink area) look up and fly," said McCann.
With one of the bats testing positive for rabies, McCann called in the services of a bat removal company.
"As far as we knew, when they had left, they had gotten all done, but they sent another to confirm that there was another entry point for these bats, but the problem, they couldn’t do anything about it because of the time of the year," said McCann.
The bat roosting period in Michigan usually starts from June to mid-August. During this time if bats are dwelling in people’s homes, they fly in and out frequently in search of food for their pups. If one-way doors are installed, the bats won't be able to come back inside, resulting in the pups dying.
Kyle Scappaticci from Platinum Wildlife Removal Company says bats are protected species and nuisance removal companies like his face a fine of $10,000 per bat if one is harmed during the maternity season.
"As far as I know, you cannot install one-way doors in the state of Michigan during June and July and that’s been our policy for 16 years," said Scappaticci.
But Eric Hillard from the Department of Natural Resources had a different story to share.
"We only have one endangered bat in Michigan, we also have a threatened species those typically don’t stay in houses, but because of the white-nose syndrome people generally think all bats are endangered and therefore they can’t be removed from homes," said Hillard.
There are nine species of bats in Michigan, of which, the Northern Long-eared bat, and the Indiana bat are protected species, but even then, Eric says they too can be removed if human health and safety are impacted.
"We don’t levy any type of a fine against anyone for bat removal even during that period of time. Again, there is nothing illegal about removing during that period; it's just our recommendation," said Hillard.
Since all this was news to Scappaticci, we asked him what would help to clarify the misinformation.
"Probably standard guidelines on their website, there is nothing really about that on there, what you can or can’t do," said Scappaticci.
After the problem was brought to the DNR’s attention, Hillard confirmed an update to the policy. The wildlife permits section on the DNR’s website shows the addition of this line for bats: 'guidance does not apply in cases of health and human safety,' clarifying that when human life is at risk, bats can be removed even during the roosting season.
"Had we had the proper information, had the company been more aware of the proper laws, we could have saved ourselves a lot of frustration, a lot of stress," said McCann.
Now according to experts, bats don’t want to come in contact with humans, but if they do crawl into your living space, the best way to get rid of them is to turn off the lights, open the windows and they will fly away. Meanwhile, if you or your loved one comes in contact with bats then call the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and if you have any questions about bats, call the Department of Natural Resources.