Vermont’s bats are in trouble. By learning to live with bats you can help with their long-term conservation.
Vermont is home to nine bat species. Five are listed as either threatened or endangered. Below you’ll find the answers to the frequently asked questions about why bats are in trouble, how to safely live with them, and what you can do to help.
About Vermont’s Bats
What bats live in Vermont?
Vermont is home to nine species of bats:
Hibernate in caves and mines during the winter.
- Big brown bat*
- Little brown bat* (state endangered)
- Indiana bat (federally and state endangered)
- Tri-colored bat (federally threatened and state endangered)
- Northern long-eared bat (state endangered)
- Eastern small-footed bat (state threatened)
Migrate south to warmer climates for the winter and roost in trees during the summer.
* The little brown and big brown bat also are known as house bats because they are often found roosting in buildings during the summer.
For more information on identifying Vermont’s bats, check out our Species Guide to Vermont Bats.
Why are all the bats dying?
White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has resulted in the loss of more than 5.7 million bats in the northeastern United States since 2006. This disease has affected all six of Vermont’s cave bat species (bats that hibernate in caves and mines in the winter months). WNS is associated with a newly identified fungus that invades the skin and damages the tissue in hibernating bats.
In Vermont, populations of cave bats have declined dramatically since the disease was first observed in the state. In particular, populations of Vermont’s two most common bat species – the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat (northern myotis) – have declined over 90 percent. Read more on WNS.
What’s being done to battle White-nose Syndrome?
Government and private agencies are working together to find solutions to help our bat populations overcome WNS. The video Battle For Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome highlights this work.
How do I know if a bat has White-nose Syndrome, and is it harmful to people?
If you find a bat in the winter or spring with a white powdery substance on its nose, wings, ears, or forearms, this may be evidence of the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome. White-nose Syndrome is a deadly disease that has devastated Vermont’s cave bats since it was first discovered in the state in 2008.
Though bats should never be handled without heavy gloves due to potential rabies exposure, White-nose Syndrome and the fungus that causes it are harmless to humans or other animals.
Please fill out our Sick Acting Bat Form or call 802-786-0098 to report the bat. In some cases we may be interested in collecting the specimen, or we may advise you to dispose of it properly. Read more on WNS
Living with Bats
Do bats have rabies?
Though less than 1 percent of bats test positive for rabies, it is a very real threat and you should avoid direct contact with bats. More information on rabies and bats can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.
If you have been bitten or scratched by a bat or have found a bat in a room with a sleeping, intoxicated, or mentally disabled person, a previously unattended child, or an unvaccinated pet then you should call the rabies hotline at 1-800-4RABIES, the Department of Health, or your physician immediately. Do not let the bat out of the house until you are advised there is no concern for exposure.
Little brown bats, one of the species commonly found in homes, are endangered in Vermont so you MUST fill out an Incidental Take Form on our website within five days if the bat needs to be captured or killed and sent for rabies testing.
The penalties and fines normally associated with killing an endangered animal are avoided in the case of a potential rabies exposure if you fill out this form. Please read see our General Permit for more information.
What should I do if a bat gets in my house?
Don’t panic. This is very common in the summer when young bats first learn to fly. We have detailed instructions for how to deal with “unwanted guests” in your living space in our Bats in Your House brochure. Bat Conservation International also has an excellent video available that can walk you through removing a bat from your house.
If you suspect a potential rabies exposure (see the rabies question) call the rabies hotline at 1-800-4RABIES, the Department of Health, or your physician. You MUST fill out an Incidental Take Form on our website within five days if the bat needs to be captured or killed and sent for rabies testing.
What should I do if I find a sick or injured bat?
This is common during warm spells in July and August when bats can become dehydrated. If anyone has had contact with the bat or you suspect a rabies exposure, call the rabies hotline at 1-800-4RABIES, the Department of Health, or your physician.
Please also call the bat experts at the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at (802)786-0098 for helpful guidance on what to do with the bat.
In many cases, bats simply become dehydrated and with a little guidance can be successfully placed back outside at nightfall. If you are unable to reach someone, please leave a message or fill out our Sick Acting Bat Form and we will contact you during working hours.
When in doubt, it is best to return wildlife to the wild. Use gloves to place the bat outside at nightfall on something high and safe from predators, like a tree branch, so that the bat can return to its natural roost. Avoid placing the bat in a box or any other container it may not be able to escape from.
What should I do if I find a dead bat?
Young bats experience high mortality in July and August when they first learn to fly. The young pups often become disoriented or dehydrated.
Please fill out our Sick Acting Bat Form or call 802-786-0098. Your information will aid us in tracking bat activity throughout the state. If rabies testing is not required the bat can be placed in a plastic bag and put into the trash.
Do you want to hear about healthy bats too?
Yes! We are especially interested in colonies of bats living in buildings since they may include the state endangered little brown bat. Please fill out the Bat Colony Reporting Form or call 802-786-0098.
How do I keep bats from entering my house?
The best way to keep bats out of the house is to make sure that windows are not left open without screens in them, and to maintain your house to prevent cracks and crevices from forming that allow bats to enter.
Why do bats continue to enter my house and how are they getting in?
Bats are opportunists. They do not chew or dig to create holes, but are able to find and utilize openings as small as 1/2 inch wide. These openings are commonly found around the chimney, under flashing, through attic vents, under slate roof tiles, and at roof edges, ridge caps, soffits, and fascia boards.
Watch for bats exiting from these areas at dusk or returning at dawn. Look for piles of guano (bat droppings) or dark body staining around the entry and exit points. Also, look for entries from the roost into the living space around attic access doors, chimneys, and other openings to attic spaces around closets and ceilings. For more information, read our Bats in Your House brochure.
If I find a bat in my house, does that necessarily mean they are living here?
If you frequently have bats in your living space, there is a good chance they are living somewhere in the building - most likely an attic space.
If this is the first time you have seen a bat in the house, it may be a lost or confused individual that flew in through an open window or door during a warm summer night. Learn more in our Bats in Your House brochure.
If I have lots of bats living in my home, how can I get them out?
If you believe there are a number of bats living in your attic, basement, or living space, then you probably have a "maternity colony" of little brown or big brown bats. These species form large groups in the summer to raise their young in warm and protected spaces, such as attics. Big brown bats also sometimes overwinter in unheated attics and basements instead of hibernating in caves and mines.
The little brown bat is endangered in Vermont so harming, harassing or killing these bats violates the endangered species law and may result in large fines (with the exception of a potential rabies exposure). However, you can safely exclude bats from your home by following our Best Management Practices.
We are very interested in mapping house-bat colonies around the state and helping you to properly exclude bats if needed. Please fill out our Bat Colony Reporting Form and contact us at (802)786-0098 if you would like a list of nuisance wildlife control professionals in your area.
How much will it cost me to have someone else get the bats out of my house?
The cost for professional bat colony exclusion varies depending on how long the bats have been there, how old and large your house is, and where you live. It is best to call around and get quotes from several nuisance wildlife specialists.
We can provide you with the names of some specialists in your area if you call 802-786-0098. You also may find companies listed online or in the phone book under “pest control” or “nuisance wildlife.”
The state-endangered little brown bat gathers in summer colonies in attics and barns. All pest control or nuisance wildlife professionals in Vermont must fill out a nuisance bat work report if excluding little brown bats from buildings.
Be sure to ask nuisance wildlife control professionals if they follow Vermont’s Best Management Practices for properly excluding bats from buildings. They will need a special permit from the Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources to exclude bats if they do not follow these guidelines.
I am a pest control/nuisance wildlife specialist. What should I know about excluding bats from buildings?
The little brown bat is one of two species that prefers to set up summer colonies in buildings. Due to drastic population losses from White-Nose Syndrome the little brown bat is now endangered in Vermont.
If you perform bat exclusion work, you are likely to encounter this bat. If you are unsure which species you are working with, please follow our Guide to Identifying Little Brown and Big Brown Bats.
All pest control or nuisance wildlife specialists in Vermont must follow Vermont’s Best Management Practices and fill out a nuisance bat work report when excluding bats from buildings. If these guidelines are not followed, you will need to apply for a State Threatened and Endangered Species Permit from the Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources.
We also recommend the installation of a bat house before the completion of all exclusions to increase the survival of displaced bats.
How to Help
What can I do to help the bats in Vermont?
You can report colonies of bats living in buildings using our Bats Colony Reporting Form and/or volunteer to monitor summer colonies by counting bats on warm summer nights as they emerge from buildings.
Check out our Bat Colonies Monitoring Program for more information.
If you have bats in your area, you can build or buy a well-designed bat house. Suitable and protected summer roost sites are critical to the survival of Vermont’s bats by providing places for female bats to raise their young. The best sources for pre-built bat houses are Bat Conservation International and Bat Conservation and Management.
Do you want to know about the bats living in my attic or barn?
Yes! If you find a bat colony (10 or more bats) in your Vermont residence, PLEASE HELP by reporting the colony using our at Bat Colony Reporting Form. We are trying to learn more about the state-endangered little brown bats, which often congregate in attics or barns during the summer to raise their young.
If you are wondering if you have little brown bats, look at our guide to identifying house bat species. Your observations are invaluable to the conservation and recovery of Vermont’s bats. You can also help our recovery efforts by volunteering to count bats this summer through our Bat Colony Monitoring Program.
Where do I buy a bat house or how can I build one myself?
Bat houses need to be the correct dimensions, located on a post or building (never a tree), painted black, and receive maximum sunshine to entice bats to occupy the structure.
How do I get bats to live in my empty bat house?
It sometimes takes a few years for bats to find and move in to a new bat house. However, you can increase your chances for success by making sure your bat house design and placement follow research-proven guidelines. You can find these in our Attracting Vermont’s Bats brochure and on the Bat Conservation International website.
Helpful Links and Resources
Forms and reports:
- Sick Acting Bats Reporting
- Bat Colony Reporting
- Take/Kill of Bats Reporting
- Animal Damage/Pest Control Activity Reporting