Monday, August 8, 2011
Well, another thing to remember from the very eventful year 2011.
Last Wednesday night, around 10:30, M and I were quietly reading in bed, when suddenly something just swooshed into our bedroom. Something black, and big, and... flying. But it wasn't a bird. Its wingspan was about 15 cm (6 inches), there was more of a gliding motion to it, and it started flying in circles above us.
After a few seconds of sheer shock (and some screaming from the both of us), I jumped out, got out of the room while closing the door, and went to close the door to both kids' rooms. Then M slowly tried to do the same, while the bat circled in around him. Finally, he got out, and we surrendered the bedroom to our invader, while making sure to shut the door.
We had another WTF?????!!!!!!! moment, and then we decided on a course of action. We would try to drop a towel on it, put the towel into a shoebox and take it outside. We were completely panicked, our hearts racing, finding it hard to think clearly. We went downstairs to get what we needed, and came back into our bedroom, less than 2 minutes later.
We expected the bat to still be flying in circles, but it wasn't. In fact, we could not see it. It was somewhere in our room, trying very hard to be invisible. M started looking around -in the drapes, in or under our bed, etc. At every moment he expected it to jump out and bite him in the face or something, but no chance. I let him continue to look and went to the computer to see what we were supposed to do in this case.
And our instinct had been right -bats are rendered pretty much motionless when you drop a towel on them, and they can't untangle themselves or fly away. It was also strongly advised to put on gloves, because they do bite -however, only when attacked and scared. So I grabbed two pairs of thick gardening gloves and went to give one to my husband, who had started tearing the room apart but could still not find the little night visitor. I mustered up the courage to tell him that the one thing we did not do right would probably end up being the most costly: you should always keep an eye on it and know where the bat is, because they can hide virtually anywhere, and get in holes about as big as a quarter. And when they go into hiding, they can stay there for HOURS.
Around midnight, we had become really discouraged (not to mention exhausted -M had an important presentation at 9 the next morning). We didn't know what to do; it didn't seem to be anywhere. Open up the window, close the door behind us, go sleep on the couch and hope it would have gotten out by the next morning? No. There would be no way of knowing it really got out, and who knows what else could come in (bats usually live in colonies, there are tons of disgusting bugs at this time of year). So I called the police -not the emergency line, just the regular police station number, in case they would know. They didn't. They said they could page the animal control center, which was normally closed during the night, and see if they would call us back. Fifteen minutes later, a woman clearly infuriated from having been woken up called, and plainly told me that if we didn't even know where the f bat was, then how could we expect them to help us? There was nothing they could do. Good luck finding it, she told me with a snide. It could be anywhere, including hanging somewhere in your clothes, and it could take days.
We were on our own. We were so tired we almost gave up and decided to wait until the next morning, but the thought of the bat lurking somewhere in our bedroom was unbearable. So we had no choice: we would have to empty the room completely, including, if need be, taking down the bed, dissembling furniture, etc. We decided to start by emptying the closet. M started handing out clothes to me, I shook them a little, then made piles I brought to the living room. At some point our teenage neighbor's boyfriend arrived to drop her off at her house, and for a second they stared at us through the windows, all lights on and drapes open in the middle of the night, the both of us frantically going through our closet with crazed looks on our faces. Uh-oh, the normally quiet neighbors have started smoking crack or something, I could imagine them thinking.
I brought in the last pile at around 1 AM. Suddenly I turned around and the bat was flying right besides me -I guess it was hiding in clothes after all and we missed it. I screamed again, M arrived. Go fetch the towels, he said! I'll keep an eye on it! When I returned it had perched itself on the highest spot in our house, above our front door. It looked different now, not so big and scary. I took a picture.
M went outside to grab the long-handed net we use for the swimming pool. I was looking at it, and could see that it was just a terrified furry little mouse now -it kept turning up its nose as if to try and recognize a familiar smell (that of outside?), and let out faint cries, which were extremely weird, like a clicking or a metallic sound. M came back, opened the front door, and tried to help the bat out. It started making the noise much, much louder -it was clearly scared, sending out ultrasounds I suppose. It took flight, but instead of getting outside it started going in circles in our living space. I ran to open the patio door on the other side of the room, but again it didn't get out. It suddenly ducked right besides our fireplace.
M was getting despaired. He was furious at himself that we had lost it in the first place and wasted precious hours, he couldn't believe that we had lost it again, and now, in a much wider space. He went to look into the fireplace with a flashlight. The bat was nowhere to be found. I asked him if he was sure it was in there. I really think so, he said. OK, eff it, then, I said. Let's get a really big box and block the fireplace with it and just deal with it later, alright? He agreed, but then just to make sure he moved whatever was close to the fireplace: a chair, a table, some vases for my flowers. He moved the very last item: F's exersaucer. Then he screamed. The bat had been hiding underneath, lying on its belly on the floor. Quickly, I handed him the towel, and he covered it. The bat was not happy. It started with the very loud clicking sound again, only it felt like a buzzing too, M said, like when a cell phone vibrates only a hundred times stronger. Every time we would try to move the towel slightly, it would do it: it's as tough we could feel the sound as much as we could hear it. Gently, M put the towel into the box, brought it into our backyard, and released the bat slowly. It first lay on the patio, then took flight again. Phew.
It was nearly 2 AM. We were so much on an adrenaline high, there was no way we could sleep after that. The funniest thing is that these animals are associated with gory lore so much, unbeknown to each other we both had irrational reactions: when it first appeared into our bedroom, I admit that I had a split second of almost expecting it to disappear into a loud poof! of smoke, and then see a dapper Dracula-type appear instead. My husband, who's the most rational/cynical person I know, told me that at the end, he was so exhausted and stunned that he started thinking: "Did this really happen? Did we really have a bat into our bedroom, or was it some kind of weird paranormal sh*t we both hallucinated????"
The kids never woke up. On the Web, it said that these nocturnal visitors are especially frequent in houses in August, because that's when the babies start fending for themselves, and their instinct/orientation is not as sharp. We have NO IDEA where it came from, and obviously never saw it come in. We had seen bats outside before on a couple occasions (like at my mother's house the week before), but not really here in our densely populated suburb. It was the first time we saw one that close, even while M lived in a big, old country house with a huge barn until his early-twenties, and even while when I was 17 I spent one summer working on a remote island in an Ontario provincial park (there) where my cabin had no electricity and we had EVERYTHING else: bears, raccoons, an old scary flying squirrel, plate-size moths.
We were of course slightly concerned about rabies for the kids: what if the bat had gone into their room before ours and bit them? Even though the chances of the bat being infected was low, it was still scary: if untreated, rabies is always fatal. But we tried not to be too crazy: only about 10% of bats captured and analyzed in Canada end up carrying rabies. The kids doors' were not shut, but they were still almost so. So the odds of the bat having been inside, having found the sleeping child, and having decided to bite it even though the child was still seemed unlikely. The bat didn't bite us, in fact, it seemed to want to avoid us at all costs. I ended up checking with our local health authority, and they don't systematically administer the rabies vaccine (which is very expensive, full of harsh side effects, and has to be given in 5 different doses over several days) only because a bat was found in a house where there were sleeping children. There has to be something that lets you believe there was indeed a bite: either bite marks, or the child suddenly waking up while crying violently as if in pain, only to find the bat shortly after. The kids don't have any marks. Let's just hope I never have to see a bat again.