Keep an eye out for bats this spring

Wisconsin bats come out of hibernation

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds Wisconsin residents that they may encounter bats emerging from hibernation in the spring. If a bat is found outside, the best thing to do in most situations is to leave it alone.

It’s easy to think that a bat coming out of hibernation needs help. A bat can take up to 20 minutes to become fully alert, especially in cold weather. While waking up, bats can stay very still. Other times, they may shiver to get their blood flowing. They may also chatter or hiss or hold their mouths open for a long time. These are healthy and natural behaviors for bats as they wake up and warm up.

In most cases, bats do not need human help. The DNR recommends viewing bats from a safe distance.

If you find a bat this time of year, follow these steps to help care for it and yourself:

  1. If you care, leave them there! If the bat is outside and seems asleep, observe it from a distance without disturbing it.
  2. Check the hazards. If the bat is in an area where it might interact with people, such as inside a building, you can move the bat carefully by following these guidelines:

– Wearing gloves, carefully place a cardboard box on top of the bat.

– Slide a flat surface, such as a piece of cardboard, under the bat to lift it into the box from below.

– Find a quiet place to release the bat away from people. Bats cannot climb out of cardboard boxes on their own, so place the box on its side at the base of the tree or wood. The bat will come out on its own and take refuge in a sheltered place.

  1. Protect yourself. Never touch a bat with your bare hands; it can bite if it feels threatened. Like other mammals, bats can carry diseases such as rabies.

Bats are a vital part of many ecosystems as they consume many biting insects and agricultural and forestry pests. Bats also play an important role in reducing the risk of insect-borne diseases like West Nile virus. Wisconsin’s cave bat populations have been in rapid decline since 2014 due to the devastating fungal disease White Nose Syndrome which causes significant mortality in cave bats.

More information is available at DNR’s Saving Wisconsin’s Bats webpage.

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