It's bat season in Houston ---and not the Twilight type

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by mponto

khou.com

Posted on November 16, 2009 at 2:12 PM

Bats snuggled into the crevices under the Waugh Bridge. Photo by Dale Martin.It's time to put up the bat signal.

Not only are the baby bats at the Buffalo Bayou now fledglings, but this is the time of year you may see more bats in the area as many of them that migrated south have now returned back to Texas.

It's also bat maternity season (which comes after bat mating season).

BABY BATS MAKING CRASH LANDINGS
So what does bat maternity season really mean? Well, not much unless you are a bat, but if you see some bats on the ground, I'm told that they could be baby bats (called pups) who haven't yet mastered the art of flying.

But there could be another reason for falling bats. The mama bat actually carries her pups with her as she flies, but because of the extra weight, she may occasionally need to make a crash landing and rest.

Either way, these bats pups and mama bats may be totally healthy and will just get up go again.

Also, bats like to swoop down and grab a drink from standing water, such as a farm pond or a swimming pool --or even the bayou. So don't think they are attacking you, they are just looking for a drink -- because, man, it's hot in Houston.

JUST IN CASE...
You know I love my bat friends, but that doesn't mean I'm naïve. I know they can carry diseases including rabies. So here are the rules I got from the Texas Mosquito Control just in case you run into a bat (or a bat flies into you):

1) If a bat comes into contact with a person, either by flying into the person, landing on the person, or by being picked up or handled by the person, the person should try to capture the bat without further skin contact, so it can be tested for rabies.

2) Contact animal control or a veterinarian to have the bat tested.

3) Keep in mind, that there may be a cost to the person wanting the bat tested; however, it is worth the money, especially if the bat has had contact with a person or a pet - just in case.

4) If you can't find the bat, you should speak with a physician or health department about the incident to see if you could have been exposed to something the bat was carrying.

BATS THAT LOOK BUT DON'T TOUCH
Waugh Bridge is the best place to watch the bats. Photo from Buffalobayou.org.
The good news is if the bat just happens to be hanging out and doesn't actually touch you, there is no need to have it tested.

Let's say you find a "downed" bat or a bat in a building, all you need to do is release it outside (hopefully it will just fly out).

But if the bat happens to be resting, don't touch it with your bare hands. Wear gloves and simply cover the bat with a small box or empty coffee can and slide a stiff piece of cardboard underneath so the bat is trapped inside the box or can. Also, remember that a bat may look dead, but will come to life when disturbed.

Some bats need to be above the ground to take flight, so moving the bat to a tree will help the bat be on its way. While still wearing your gloves, you can remove the cover and place the box on its side in a tree.

The bat may immediately fly or crawl out of the box onto the branches, or it may not fly away until dark.

If the bat appears to be injured, contact animal control - but I'm not sure what they do with it. For a chance of having the bat fixed up and rehabilitated, call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. They have information on state permitted wildlife rehabilitators.

LETTING THE BATS HANG WITH YOU - JUST FOR A WHILE
Now, I know that many of you don't like the idea of having bats in your attic and around your home. I'm like that with those big Texas roaches - they give me the willies.

But because it's maternity season, the baby bats won't be able to leave because they can't fly. What will happen if you evict them now is that the adult bats will get out, but the baby bats will be trapped inside - which totally sucks.

Bat exclusion is best carried out in early spring (before maternity season) or in the fall (after August) when the young bats are able to fly well.

NOW THE FUN BAT STUFF
Okay, now that I freaked you out with all the bat rules, it's time for bat lovers to have a little fun.

Diana Foss with Texas Parks and Wildlife gives free 20 minute bat presentations on the East side of the Waugh Street bridge at Allen Parkway on the first and third Friday and Saturday of the month.

By the way, even if you just want to go by yourself, this is the best place is see the bats when they fly out for their nightly excursions.

Below are the dates for the presentations:

Friday, July 3
Saturday, July 4
Friday, July 17
Saturday, July 18
Saturday, August 1
Friday, August 7
Saturday, August 15
Friday, August 21

LINKS
Learn more about the Buffalo Bayou bat colony
Girl About Town checks out the bats at the Bayou
Follow KHOU's Girl about Town on Twitter

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