South Carolina is home to 14 different species of bat, but only half are colonial cavity roosting species. Those species form large groups and sometimes use human dwellings. Of those species, most cases of unwanted bats in man-made structures are attributed to four common species: the free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis) and sometimes the tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus). The latter species is becoming increasingly rare due to rapidly declining populations caused by White-nose Syndrome.
All the state’s bats feed on insects and are nocturnal. They’re able to navigate and locate prey using sound waves through the large gap between their front teeth. This allows them to emit high-pitched sounds out of their mouths at about 10-20 beeps per second. This gap also makes it impossible for bats to create holes in structures—only getting inside through preexisting crevices, gaps or holes.
If you find a bat in your home, it’s important that you don’t swat at it while it’s flying. If it lands within reach, put on thick gloves and cover it with a towel. If the bat is on a curtain or wall, place a small box over the bat, then slide a piece of cardboard over the opening to trap the bat.
If you think you have been exposed to a bat, call SCDHEC immediately. Do not release the bat unless they direct you to do so. According to the SCDHEC website, even if you haven’t been bitten by a bat, you are considered exposed to a bat if you:
If no one has been exposed, the bat can be released outside on a tree or other high object. Do not leave the bat in a container for release because it will have trouble crawling out. Once the bat is outside your home, try to find out where it got in and make sure there are no other animals, like raccoons or squirrels, inside either.
Though bats can carry rabies just like any other mammal, they are an integral part of our ecosystem and economy. Less than one percent of natural bat populations were found to carry the rabies virus, according to a Canadian study.
Bats eat mosquitoes, forest and crop pests, and save the South Carolina agricultural industry an average of $115 million every year. They are also fascinating: the Brazilian free-tailed bat is the fastest flying animal on the planet at 100 mph.