Thursday, February 27, 2014

Myotis lucifugus

The little brown bat’s latin name is Myotis lucifugus,
which makes it sound a bit more terrifying than it really is.

A winter slumber disturbed

So far, no good in operation rodent vanquish. In fact, far from elimination of household vermin, we’ve actually discovered more.

In case you missed the first half of this journey, let me catch you up to speed: there’s a mouse in our house. Well, there was a mouse in the house. Now I’m confused as to where the little devil went and how he’s getting by on no food at all.

Upon discovering this mouse a couple weeks ago, I set traps and sealed the hole in the wall where I knew he was getting access to the main floor dog dish via the crawlspace below. No dog food has been removed by rodents since, but the traps in the crawlspace remain undisturbed.

In fact, upon first check of the two-trap trapline, I found the sunflower seeds removed from the peanut butter encrusted trap pan and little mouse tongue marks in the peanut butter itself. The dirty bugger outfoxed me! I reset the trap with additional seeds, and this time put a layer of peanut butter on top of the seeds to make it more difficult for the intruder to tiptoe his way to a tasty meal. Every check since then, though, reveals no sign of additional action at the sets.

I’ve had some additional suggestions since my initial report on this issue came out the 13th of this month, including a baiting technique described to me by a fellow Wintergreen Resort patron. He suggests threading some mono fishing line with a needle through a piece of dog food to tie to the mouse trap pan. Not a bad idea. I’ve held off getting that technical with the trap though, insisting (to myself mostly) the tiny fiend will succumb to the peanut butter-sunflower seed speciality I’ve cooked up for it.

That’s what is going on in the crawlspace, anyway. In the attic, there’s a different situation on hand - bats...

I don’t know what it is, but it seems like every time Dad comes over he drums up some sort of infestation alert; I’m starting to wonder just what the link is here.

This past weekend he visited to perform some finishing touches on the bathroom fan project we started a couple weeks ago. It involved crawling around in insulation in the attic and while scooting across some boards laid down for walking on up there, a sudden, scratchy screech played out repeatedly below his foot. He flipped over the 2x4 directly below his heel, and found a little brown bat.

“Well, now we know where the bat scat came from,” were his words while climbing down the step ladder with the bat wrapped in a wad of pink insulation between his thumb and index finger.

The bat was clearly dazed, having been rudely awakened from hibernation by a pair of insulated Rocky boots. It was hard to tell if the bat was busted up from being stepped on or just confused and grouchy at being captured, but its fangs were displayed and the scratchy screech repeated over and over like a broken record.

I felt bad for the little guy. I think we both did.

Bats are an interesting problem to have. On one hand, they’re not really something you want living in your attic or house, but on the other hand, their vast impact on the local bug population in summer months, as well as the fact they’re really not interested in kitchen stores, are positives for them being in the vicinity.

I remember many summer nights as a kid, playing in my grandfather’s fields, especially by the sheep sheds, and seeing bats come out at dusk. We would lay on our backs so as to see them silhouetted by an orange and purple sky, the day’s heat subsiding into a warm, content calm upon our arms and faces.

Dad used to tell us this one story about a canoe trip in the boundary waters. He and his brother were plagued by mosquitoes and blackflies most of the day. Of course, as mosquitoes tend to do, they got even thicker and more intense close to nightfall.

“That’s when the bats descended,” he would say. “They swarmed in from the trees above us and were flying right above our heads, zipping in-between us, feasting; so close you could hear their wing beats, and then the bugs were gone…just, poof,” and he’d make the shape of a soft explosion with his hands.

While I do hope it was just that one bat in the attic to get rid of, it was pretty interesting to see it up close. In fact it reminded me of one time when I was…oh, maybe 10 or so, and I was helping the youth group in my church take down nativity scene decorations from the church attic. Someone came across a bat and started to flip out. I remember breaking off a chunk of cardboard from a box and scooping the bat up under a small bowl. Then we placed him in a further up, undisturbed area in the attic and went about our way getting the rest of the decorations. I like to think he slept through the rest of that winter just fine.

Some people are afraid of bats, I guess. Apparently that’s a pretty common thing? I don’t get it. I think it’s pretty neat there are still some flying mammals in the world. I just wish they didn’t want to sleep in our house.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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