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Bats in her rafters

Bats in her rafters Bats in her rafters

Some people might think Nancy Hefley has bats in her belfry when actually they were on her front porch.
This isn’t the first summer Nancy and her husband, Charlie, have shared the rafters of their log cabin front porch with the little mammals. In a way, they welcome their annual return because they cut down on the mosquito population and other insects as well.
But this year they noticed something new.
One evening, Nancy decided to sit out on her porch and watch the bats leave their nest to search for food.
The last week of June, she had a front-row seat as it began to get dark. One by one, the half-dozen or so adult bats let go of the rafter and flew off into the darkening sky.
That’s when she noticed what was left behind: baby bats.
‘Perhaps there have been babies in the past, but we never saw them,’ she said.
She got a video camera and started filming. She said it was hard to hold the camera steady and soon her neck needed a break from the awkward position.
The next day, she told her co-workers ‘ she’s the customer service representative at First Harrison Bank in Hardinsburg ‘ about her discovery. They suggested she call the newspaper, and I took her call.
I’m not crazy about bats ‘ most evenings I see two flying around our house ‘ but I like to see new things and learn what I can. So I met the Hefleys at their home in Dogwood Estates on Friday evening, July 1.
I made sure to arrive while it was still light. I’d never been inside this particular Palmyra subdivision before, and I wanted time to familiarize myself with the Hefleys as well as the bats’ habitat before they started flying around my head.
Nancy was putting on her shoes to go out on the porch when I arrived. She showed me the rafter where they hang out ‘ the one right above their front door.
Other than having to clean up the guano on a daily basis, the Hefleys said the bats are no bother. Well, except for the time one flew into the house.
As Nancy retold the story, I envisioned the scene. The bat made its way up to the second story. Nancy stayed at the bottom of the stairs and would yell ‘sightings’ at Charlie as to its location. First she’d see the bat fly past the stairway toward the other end of the house. Then, here would come Charlie running after it.
He finally captured it. They think the bat just got tired. So was Charlie.
Nestled in the woods in northeast Blue River Township, the Hefley homestead includes a few dogs and cats. Then there’s the visitors ‘ hummingbirds, a raccoon, wild turkeys and deer ‘ that either come close to the house or, as in the case of the ‘coon, make themself at home on the deck.
As we visited, one by one a black shape flew off away from the house. With the aid of a flashlight, Nancy would check occasionally to see how many adult bats ‘ apparently big brown bats ‘ were left. Soon she announced that only the babies were left.
Big brown bats can be found from Canada to northern South America and the Caribbean Islands. Baby bats are called pups. Looking at the young ones left by themselves reminded me of newborn Boston terrier puppies that we used to raise, only smaller and hanging upside.
That night, the pups were active, and I was amazed that they could already hang upside.
Charlie got a stepladder so we could get a closer look. I wasn’t sure if the adults would come back while I had my head almost in the rafters, so I snapped a few pictures quickly and got a good look. I doubt if I’ll ever have the opportunity again to see something like that.
There are two reasons why I may not: First, like I said earlier, I’m not crazy about bats, but I’ll try almost anything once. Second, big brown bats in the United States are decreasing for several reasons, all human related: They are often disturbed while they’re hibernating; they get killed when they get in someone’s house, and they’re losing places to live as housing and businesses are built.
Bats, which are not blind, are beneficial to humans and should not be feared. Bats won’t get caught in your hair (their magnificent flying ability allows them to steer clear of you), and most bats don’t get infected with diseases such as rabies.
If bats are making their home on your property where you don’t want them, contact the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources to find out how to move them without hurting them. (Several species of bats are endangered, making it a federal offense to disturb them.) We can help by providing bat houses.
It’s all a matter of becoming better educated about the unknown and learning to coexist with each other.
About those bats at the Hefleys: Nancy said they all took off the day after I was there (I hope it wasn’t something I said!) and were gone for a couple of weeks. Two bats, one adult and one pup, have since returned. Hopefully, they’ll continue to eat those pesky mosquitoes and reduce the risk of West Nile virus.