A bat that is hibernating in a cave

How Can You Tell if a Bat is Hibernating or Dead?

At this time of year, if you find a bat inside your property, it could be hard to tell whether it is alive or dead. Hibernating bats are often mistaken for being dead, as they are usually very still and cold to the touch. So, how can you know if a bat is hibernating or alive? What should you do if you find a bat in this condition? 

Signs that a bat is hibernating  

During hibernation, bats go into a torpid (dormant) state – this condition of low activity allows the bats to save massive amounts of energy. As a result, their body temperature and heart rate drop significantly. They are still breathing but may breathe as little as once a minute. These internal changes to the bat’s condition can make it look as though it is dead. 

Although the bat may appear unconscious during torpor, the bats will wake throughout the hibernation months. For instance, two of the most common bats in the US, Big Brown Bats, and Little Brown Bats, usually awaken every two weeks during hibernation. In these waking moments, the bats may move about, and you may hear sounds of squeaking or shuffling. If you disturb a bat in hibernation, it will awaken, although it can take the best part of an hour to wake up. Sudden changes in the surrounding temperature will also wake a bat from torpor. 

Even when a bat is hibernating, there may be signs of life, such as breathing and small movements, including ear twitching.

A hibernating bat hanging from a wall

How to identify a dead bat 

As previously stated, it can be challenging to work out if a bat is dead or in torpor. Even the bat’s position cannot always determine whether the mammal is dead. You might think that if a bat is hanging upside down, it must be alive. Believe it or not, there are tendons that keep bats’ toes locked in place so they can hang upside down easily, and these are so strong that a bat can continue to hang upside down, even after it has died! 

The body of a dead bat will stiffen soon after death and start to decompose. Perhaps the strongest indicator that the animal has died is the smell. Often the horrible odor of the decomposing body is the first sign you will get that there is a dead bat in your building. 

What to do if a bat is hibernating in your house? 

It is important to remember that bats are endangered and federally protected. If bats are disturbed during hibernation, this will use a large percentage of their precious energy, and the bats could die. Therefore, it would be best to contact a bat removal company that can safely assess your property and prepare to remove and exclude the bats in the Spring. 

Accumulations of bat guano (droppings) can contain harmful spores that can cause a severe disease called Histoplasmosis. If you see piles of guano, it can be dangerous to try to clear this up yourself without proper protective equipment. However, a professional bat removal company can carry out guano (bat droppings) clean-up safely to prevent the spread of harmful spores. 

A bat colony in hibernation

What to do if you find a dead bat in your house?

If you find a dead bat in your house, remember that the bat may have died from a disease like white-nose syndrome or rabies. Avoid unnecessary contact with the bat. 

If you need to dispose of a bat, follow these steps:

  • Make sure you are wearing protective clothing – long sleeves and thick gloves.
  • Use a plastic bag to pick up the animal and seal it inside two bags.
  • Spray the bag with disinfectant before placing it in the garbage. 

Bats live in colonies, so where there is one bat, there will likely be many more. You should contact a bat removal company if you find dead bats in your home. They can check to see if more bats are living in your home and provide an effective removal and exclusion service. A bat removal specialist can also safely dispose of dead animals and provide safe guano clean-up. 

While bats are amazing mammals that are vital for our ecosystem, allowing them to roost in your residential or commercial property can harm your health and cause extensive damage to your property. Contact us today for expert advice on how to deal with bats on your property.

Your Local Bat Removal Expert,

Michael Koski

Get Bats Out Owner and President Michael Koski

Source: https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-should-i-do-if-i-find-dead-or-dying-bats-or-if-i-observe-bats-signs-white-nose-syndrome 


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