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The Scarlet & Black

Bats bite back

Bats+bite+back

bats-graphicBy Keli Vitaioli

vitaioli@grinnell.edu

Bats settled in Grinnell’s dorms and College-owned houses before the semester even started. The nocturnal creatures snuck into the residences through holes in vents, ceilings and closets. This led students to attempt to capture and release the animals, and, for the unfortunate few, a round of rabies vaccinations.

Cherie Li, Mariam Nadiradze and Jinlin He, all ’19, were spending the night together in He’s room in Art House on Aug. 13 when they were awakened by an unexpected guest.

“I was awake when the bat was crawling under the door,” Nadiradze said. “That was scary. I was feeling like I was about to fall asleep, and at first, I thought I was dreaming this. But the moment I saw that figure come under the door and go up into the air. … I just screamed.”

After waking her roommates for the evening, Nadiradze opened the door and released the bat into the hallway. There, they ran into Anna Warm ’19, who was attempting to clear another bat from her room next door. Warm called Campus Safety the next day.

“I trapped one in my Tupperware and then threw the Tupperware out the window,” Warm said. “And then the one in [He’s] room we chased out with a broom.”

Across campus in Younker Hall, Nathaniel Zhu ’19 dealt with his own bat.

“It was about three in the morning,” Zhu wrote in an email to The S&B. “I heard faint flitting and screeching in the hallways. Having nothing better to do, I went out to check what it was. Turns out it was a bat who had gotten in and could not get out.”

Luckily, Zhu is no stranger to bats. He had become certified as a bat catcher while teaching Chinese at a summer camp.

“The place we stayed at had a bat problem, so they certified all the counselors,” Zhu wrote.

“Since I am a certified bat catcher by Concordia College under the jurisdiction of the ACA (American Canine Association), I decided to catch the bat. I caught it without much difficulty with my waste bin.”

Zhu, Warm and He were comfortable trying to rid their bats, but it came with a cost. They were required to get nine rabies shots each. SHACS recommends that if a bat is in the same room as a person while they are asleep, the person should get rabies shots because bites from a bat’s small teeth may not be apparent on site, and the possibility of rabies left unattended is deadly. The College is paying for rabies shots for all students who are at risk of contracting the disease due to bats.

“I’ve never had butt shots before, but here we are!” Warm said.

This wasn’t the last appearance of bats in Art House this semester. There were a total of four found in the house in the past three weeks.

“We don’t have access to the basement, but we suspect there might be a nest,” He said.

“According to [Campus Safety], they are going to make [the dorm] bat free, but we haven’t heard from them yet.”

Nadiradze and Li were involved in two more bat incidents in their own triple on the third floor of Smith. Both times, the bats were found first in the room of their roommate Anjali Jha ’19. The first incident in Smith was the night Jha arrived, right before classes began. She called Campus Safety and alerted them to the bat’s hiding place in her closet. After performing a quick sweep, they determined it wasn’t present and left. However, Jha found the same bat roosting in her closet the next day.

The second time a bat appeared in the triple, the bat flew from Jha’s room, into the common room and into the hallway of Smith, where Campus Safety later caught it.

Jha believes there is a hole in her closet the bats are using to enter her dorm. She has since attempted to check the dorm thoroughly for potential bat-openings and cover holes in her vents and pipes. No one from Facilities Management or Campus Safety has since checked in on the security of the room from bats.

“I emailed my RLC the first time, and he said, ‘Maybe you should try to keep your windows closed and your door shut,’” Jha said. “But we were already doing that.”

This is not the first time bats have appeared in campus housing. Rebekah Rennick ’18 witnessed bats both in Dibble fall of 2013 and in Eco House in fall of 2014.

“Within the first week of moving in [to Eco House], we had three bats and another three the following week,” Rennick said.

While it may be surprising to have a flying mammal in a living space, Rennick advises they are not to be feared, and students should refrain from harming them.

“Don’t kill them. They are actually super important to our ecosystem, and they are more scared of you than you are of them,” Rennick said. “Hopefully you don’t have to get rabies shots.”

Campus Safety declined to comment about the presence of bats in school housing.

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