Excitement!

For a summer when nothing was going on it’s sure been kind of crazy around here. It all started in late July when the boys came running upstairs shouting that there was a bird in the house. So I stopped what I was doing and went downstairs to see.

Yup. Definitely something big flying around. Nope. Not a bird. Navigated the windows way too well and flew in the way that only a bat can fly. At first I tried to get it to leave by opening the doors but it refused. Once I turned the inside lights on it went up and hid in the rafters.

Kind of fun to see it up close like that. It was about hand-sized and is a spectacular aerialist. At the same time the boys were understandably locked in their bedrooms and my wife was keeping them calm and telling them that animal control was on the way.

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Since I had it treed in the rafters I took a photo* while I waited for the police. Calling animal control on a weekend involves calling police dispatch who send a cop out whose job is to corral the bat into a room before calling animal control to come get it.

*My first time using fully-manual flash with a fully-manual lens.

Unfortunately, our house is an open floor plan with literally no rooms available to corral the bat into. Which meant our best bet was to leave the lights on and hope the bat stayed put until animal control could get there in 4o minutes.

When she arrived, the game plan was to hit the bat with a towel and then pick it up in a tupperware container once it fell. This did not go as planned. When the animal control officer finally hit the bat (it was as high as possible in the rafters) it started flying around the house again.

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I eventually got it with a towel only for it to escape while animal control tried to tupperwear it and so had to do it a second time. Second time was the charm.* As the animal control officer jars up the bat I got to hear it chitter and squeak and recognized what a lot of the sounds we’re hearing outside our windows actually are.

*Reading about how to handle a bat in the house contains a lot of information about how a bat can’t fly once it’s on the floor. This is apparently only true if the bat isn’t strong.

Before she left the officer asked us all a bunch of questions about what we’d been doing when we noticed the bat and whether it had been in contact with anyone. This was all to ascertain our possible rabies exposure and whether or not we needed to test the bat. The problem is that testing the bat ends up killing the bat and no one wanted to kill a locally-protected animal without a good reason.

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Since it was early evening when the bat appeared and no one came into contact with it, animal control determined that it could release the bat back into the wild the following day. So she came back with the bat and eventually placed her (we now knew the bat was female) into our cherry tree so she could orient herself in a protected place. By that evening the bat was gone and we thought our adventure was over.

It was only just beginning.

Three days later we woke up to a bat circling our bedroom. This is a much smaller space and it’s WAY less fun to wake up to a bat in the morning than it is to discover one in the house at dusk. Also two people plus a bat in one bedroom is way too crowded and the bat actually ran into my wife’s face. She handled it better than she had any right to.

Remembering what we had learned during the first bat experience we shut the bat up in the bedroom and waited until business hours to call animal control since we thought everything was under control. This is when we discovered that in times of Covid any call to animal control has to go through police dispatch. Whoops. We should’ve called at 5:30 instead 8:00.

By the time animal control arrived the bat was gone—presumably through the ceiling vent that leads to the attic fan. No bat meant that we had to go to the Emergency Room for rabies shots.

Rabies is not a disease you want to mess with. It’s basically 100% fatal and yeah, better safe than sorry. While it’s not the 20 shots in the stomach I grew up hearing about it’s still not a fun vaccine. Plus taking the kids to the ER these days is not something I want to do any more than necessary and this vaccine involves four trips. Yes to the ER since it’s the only place to get the shots.

Our first trip to the ER was pretty straightforward aside from the waiting. No one questioned why all four of us were getting shots. In fact it was treated as the obvious course of action. Bat in the bedroom? Time to vaccinate the entire family.

The first day of shots is kind of brutal because the immunoglobin injections are proportional to weight and consist of a lot of volume. Definitely more involved than a regular flu shot and the youngest got a bit of a panic attack. between the ER visit and learning about rabies and having to deal with multiple injections. The kids each got two shots while the grownups got three. We were all a bit sore for a few days.

For the second time we thought we were done with excitement (aside from having to return to the ER three times over the next two weeks). I spent the day sealing up all the vents in the bedrooms so the bat couldn’t come in that way and we figured that even if the bat was in the attic it would have to go outside now.

Wrong again. That night the bat was back. Or well we’re assuming it was the same bat but we’ll never know for sure. Turns out that it wasn’t using the ceiling vents to enter our living space.* I saw it perched on our screen door but it went flying around the house again as soon as I approached it. I figured I’d give it a fighting chance to survive so I opened the door.

*I have a pretty good idea where it got in though.

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It didn’t take the chance so I switched to Plan B, turned on all the houselights again, and called animal control police dispatch. This time it took refuge high on a beam in the living room but with a lot more ease of access than the previous time. I left the lights on, met the cop outside,* and had a nice chat about how weird this summer has been while we waited for animal control to show up.

*Actually the same cop who came to our original call.

The animal control guy was apologetic about not being able to find the bat in the morning and while he stressed that we couldn’t be sure it was the same bat I think he appreciated being able to draw a line under the call.

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He netted the bat and took it off to be tested. We all knew that after three bat incidents we were going to test this one. We also knew that we’d need a proper expert to batproof our house. Thankfully you can evict bats starting on August first so by the time the batman came to our house he could do whatever he felt needed to be done.

Batman’s first visit was pretty impressive. He quickly scoped out where the bats were getting into the house* and gave us an estimate of how many bats we were dealing with based on the amount of guano. Best news of this experience was that he thought it was only a couple bats total. This also provided the silver lining of the whole thing.

*Which made sense with my conclusion as to how they (or it) was getting into the living space. Basically, instead of heading outside where the rooflines met, one of them was getting confused and followed the roof beam into the house proper.

If we had insisted on testing the first bat we caught it’s very likely that we wouldn’t have had the second and third experiences nor would we be getting vaccinated.* But we’d also probably end up with a colony of bats living in our attic which means that not only would we eventually have another bat experience, but there would be a god-awful mess to clean up. Instead we literally caught the infestation at the beginning.

*Bat we tested was negative but we were still advised to go through with the shots.

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It took a couple of tries to install the one-way bat doors* since our roof geometry was a bit more complicated than batman initially guessed but we certainly slept better after he got them in place. We also heard a lot of bat chitter outside the first night after installation. It was hard for us to not anthropomorphize the noise as being disappointment at being unable to reenter our attic.

*Sadly not labeled.

That day was also the day we went back to the ER for our second round of shots. Turns out we went a day late due to them giving us incorrect discharge papers but thankfully that wasn’t a big screwup. We also discovered how common the rabies treatment is since walking to the ER as a family is enough for the Covid temperature screener to look at all four of us and preemptively ask, “Rabies vaccine?”

The good news is that the kids are more comfortable in the ER. The bad news? The kids are more comfortable in the ER. It’s nice to not have to worry about panic attacks or keeping them calm. But now they want to touch everything and wander and we have to keep reminding them that they’re surrounded by sick people.

We got the bat doors installed right before Isaias hit. Thank god since otherwise we might have completely forgotten about them. The storm hit us around 11:00am and by 11:30 our power was out. Since our house didn’t even shudder in the wind we had no idea how much the area had gotten thrashed until the winds died down after 3:00pm and the PSEG webpage had crashed due to the number of people checking it.

It was bad. The boys kind of freak out whenever the internet buffers so having the power cut really messed them up. Meanwhile we were dealing with estimates of getting things restored in two to four days, having to plan meals around the food we had, and figuring out how soon it would go bad.

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The boys did enjoy going to bed with our fake candles though. Something about the flickering and red glow appears to be comforting even if it’s coming from a light-emitting diode and printed circuit board. If we’d had a battery-powered clock as well I suspect they’d have been just fine. Something about losing access to what time it is messed them up more than any other power-related adjustment.

They were not good on day 2 of no power. We had to keep reminding them that this sucked for everyone and that trying to make each other upset because things weren’t fun was only asking for them to get us upset at them.

I also got a chance to see how bad the town was since I went out to get ice and discovered that all the street signals save one were completely out. Between the busted signals on the big streets and all the debris and powerline work on the small streets I did not want to be out in a car any more than necessary.

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Day three though started off with more excitement. Not bat-in-bedroom excitement level but seeing your neighbor’s house on fire gets you up and running pretty quickly. This time I called police dispatch via 911 (four calls in a week and half now) and yeah, in minutes we had all kinds of sirens showing up outside to block off the roads due to a two-day-old downed electrical wire having sparked into life.

The fire never got dangerously large but there was a risk of a generator blowing up which could’ve done a decent amount of damage. As a result we backed away from the windows directly facing the fire and watched from a safer distance. Once they shut the power off the fire quickly crackled out and everyone drove off leaving the street blocked off with caution tape.

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It was an exciting way for the boys to wake up though. They’re not as into trucks as they used to be but fire engines and flashing lights are still a draw. A little scary to see them so close to the house but they gave a much more palpable sense of something happening than just waiting around for power to come back.

We went for our third round of shots that day and grabbed a free bag of ice from PSEG afterwards. This meant we were feeling pretty good about our food situation although we were still working on a run list of what to cook when. But a least we knew we’d make it whenever we got our power back.

Later that day we took a bike ride to check out the neighborhood and yeah, there were some impressive downed lines still. Biggest of the bunch involved a huge tree which fell and took out three whole lengths or power lines. Two days after the storm and PSEG had finally managed to remove the tree. Despite being out for over 48 hours it was clear that we were also somewhat lucky.

We caught another lucky break that evening when a worker came out to check the line that burned. We’d received a revised estimate that put us as not receiving power back until day five but he saw me watching him and wandered over to chat. Turns out that we live at a junction of sorts where we can be connected to multiple lines. The one we were connected to was busted but the worker said he might be able to hook us up to another one.

Sure enough, 30 minutes later our lights flickered on and the refrigerator started to run. After 60 hours of being without power we got it back in time to stream a movie that night.

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The next morning we had all sorts of cherry pickers on the street working on the downed line. Where the boys were into the fire engines still, these were of no interest. How sad. It feels like only yesterday when they would’ve sat outside for hours watching the guys work.

The week since then has been relatively calm. Thank god. Power has been steady. The last round of rabies shots which went without incident. No more bats in the house. We’re just eating down our frozen foods since we don’t trust them for long-term storage anymore and waiting for the ER bill to come.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

10 thoughts on “Excitement!”

  1. Wowza. That was quite the week. Bats. Rabies shots. Power outage. Neighborhood house fire. Sounds like you stay positive through the whole ordeal. I’m not sure I would have handled it as well. I lost power for a few hours last night and I started to get nervous because school starts this week. Started thinking about how I would charge my laptops and access the internet to teach. Anyways… great post. Very memorable.

  2. What a wild couple of weeks. We had a bat infestation once, they got into the attic area through a side vent and set up home between the bricks and drywall. At dusk or dawn it was like a bat airport. Fortunately my brother in law was in the appropriate business and set up a deal with netting that provided a way out for them but no access back. We watched that evening as dozens of bats crawled down the bricks to exit. It was a bit disturbing. Glad you and your family are on the backside of all that!

  3. All I can say is WOW!! And had a bat hit me in the face I seriously doubt I’d be here to type this. Tipping my hat to your wife.

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