⚫ A healthy bat likely won't attack you on purpose

⚫ Advice on what to do depends on whether there's been bat-human contact

⚫ Rabies is uncommon among bats

What's the first thing you'd do if you found a bat in your house or apartment?

With the Garden State being home to nine species of bats, that nightmare scenario is actually a reality for countless New Jerseyans on a yearly basis — and some of you reached out to us for advice.

The actual solution is far from scientific. And as long as you don't suspect the bat made contact with anyone, the fix is quite quick ... but nerve-racking.

How do I get a bat out of my house?

If you're certain no one's been bitten by the bat, or even contacted by it, you can put on your brave face and shut yourself in the same room as the animal.

Then, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife, you can open a door or window and keep a light on.

"Crouch down at the other side of the room, and stay still and quiet," their tips page says.

Using echolocation, the bat should find its way out of the room in a few minutes. You want to stick around to make sure it has left the building and isn't hanging out in the window curtains or elsewhere.

"There's an extremely low likelihood that a bat that's flying around is ever going to land on a person and bite them for no reason," MacKenzie Hall, a biologist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, told New Jersey 101.5.

New Jerseyans with no fear also have the option to cover the bat with a small container when it lands in a reachable place, then cover the bottom of the container and release the bat outdoors. But you'll want to be wearing thick leather gloves while doing that.

"You want to try to avoid hand-to-bat contact for sure," Hall said. "A bat will bite you 100% of the time that you try to grab it."

Can I kill a bat that's in my house?

Little brown bat (NJDEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife)
Little brown bat (NJDEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife)

If you suspect someone's been bitten, or you wake up to find a bat in your house, or you just want to be extra safe regarding rabies exposure, you're being advised to not just release the winged mammal back into the wild.

In fact, you want to keep it close until local workers or officials can take over.

You can use the same approach mentioned above to capture the bat. "Physically removing bats or poisoning bats" isn't legal or effective, the Division notes. And fly or glue traps should not be used in places where bats may encounter them.

Bats are protected by law and it's illegal to kill them in New Jersey, but officials note that killing a bat may be necessary in the name of safety. If you need to kill a bat due to concerns about rabies, you want to do so without damaging its head, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

Testing a bat for rabies is a lethal process anyway.

New Jersey Conservation Police notes that there is a range of civil penalties associated with the killing of bats, depending on the circumstances and/or intent, DEP said.

According to DOH, bat bites may be less severe than the bite of other animals and harder to detect. "Rabies postexposure treatment should be considered for any physical contact with bats when bites, scratches, or mucous membrane contact with saliva cannot be excluded," DOH says.

Does the bat in my house have rabies?

Chances are, rabies is not a threat. But you're not going to hear that from any health department or animal control office you may call.

Out of an abundance of caution, these contacts may tell you to collect the bat and submit it for rabies testing.

"Healthy bats are not aggressive, but bats infected with rabies may have problems flying, may fly during the day, act aggressively, and attempt to bite people or other animals," DOH says.

Through all of 2022, 32 bats submitted for testing in New Jersey were positive for rabies.

According to DOH, less than 1% of bats carry the virus. And according to a 2019 post from Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation, bats account for one or two human rabies cases per year between the U.S. and Canada.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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