By Susan Lassetter Illustration by Eric Abbott
While we all know that life’s better as a Bulldog Engineer, the college still had a shock when a few bats found their way into McCain Hall this spring, apparently wanting to test that statement themselves. They attempted to audit industrial and systems engineering classes, but failed to complete the necessary paperwork and could not be allowed to stay.
Mississippi is home to more than 40 species of bat, including Mexican free-tails like the ones found in McCain. Patricia Cox, Mississippi State’s biosafety officer, said these winged mammals find buildings attractive places to hide especially in the colder months when they enter a hibernation-like state.
“It’s not uncommon for a few bats to be in buildings, but they usually stay in the walls where they roost,” Cox explained. “It becomes an issue when they find their way into the building’s occupied spaces.”
After identifying the animals’ entry points, Cox and her team installed exclusion devices to help the bats safely escape the building and prevent further attempts to join classes. These devices, which typically feature some kind of screen or netting, allow the bats to exit the building but not re-enter.
Having received special training and rabies vaccinations, Cox and a colleague captured and released any bats that did not exit the building on their own.
Cox stresses that other individuals should not attempt to touch bats as they can carry disease. She offers the following tips for people who encounter bats in their homes or offices:
• If a bat is found in your home, call the health department so it can be tested for rabies
• Even small wounds caused by bats need prompt medical care. Wash all wounds with warm water and soap, and seek medical attention immediately.
• To identify where bats may be entering a building, watch for activity around the exterior at dusk. Any openings that provide access to the building’s interior should initially be blocked with an exclusion device. Once all bats are out, the entry points should be sealed. However, use caution if sealing in the summer when young bats, called pups, may be present. Unable to fly, they could become trapped. They generally become independent in late August.