Bats Stuck in the Fireplace?
Like other animals, bats like to live in places that are warm, dry and safe and fireplaces qualify. Females particularly like fireplaces for a couple of reasons: they tend to form groups, and fireplaces provide a favorable environment in which they can bear and rear their young. Usually, they will occupy the fireplace in groups of at least 40, and you’ll sense their presence by sounds of rustling as they move about and as they chirp to each other and their young.
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Unfortunately for the bats, your fireplace has a different purpose, and you are probably reluctant to light up the fireplace when you know you have a colony living above it. Evicting them is not complicated but it takes a little time. And if it’s summer, it will take a little longer, since babies are usually born in May and are not able to fly until about six weeks old.
Bats are a protected species, so your only legitimate option is eviction. The process begins with observation. Bats usually roost during the day and fly out just before twilight. Watch the fireplace to find the point(s) where they emerge; you might expect them to fly straight out the top, but they actually prefer to find chinks in the structure or around the base of the fireplace and crawl out from these places.
Once you’ve identified the bats’ points of exit, you must close them. The easiest way is to use caulking if the gateway is at the base of the fireplace or alternatively mortar, if there are chinks between bricks. Be thorough, for the creatures need only a three-eighths inch to squeeze through.
This leaves the top of the fireplace, which you can close off with a variety of exclusion devices, including pipes, funnels and netting. These devices allow the bats to exit while precluding their reentry.
Before installing these devices, you must make sure of several things, most importantly that no bats remain inside and that there are no young that will be trapped without their mothers.
If either of these situations exists, there are only a couple of possibilities: the young will die of starvation, or if they are mature enough, they and any remaining adult bats will find their way down to the fireplace and into the living area. They you have a new challenge: catch and release.
Once you’re satisfied that the fireplace is clear of bats, remove any accumulation of guano at the base – it’s a fire hazard -- remove the barriers at the fireplace top, and install a permanent bat barrier that also allows the fireplace fumes out. And get them a bat house so they’ll stick around and control your bugs.
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