July 19, 2019 11:43 pm
Updated: July 22, 2019 12:51 am

B.C. family counts over 100 bats in home’s attic and chimney after moving in

After a young B.C. man died of rabies from a bat encounter, a Chilliwack homeowner was surprised to find a colony of bats living in her attic. And as Jill Bennett reports, she can't get rid of them.

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Michelle Hamel and her family moved into a new home in Chiliwack, B.C., only to find that it was already occupied on the day they took up residence there.

Not with human tenants — but bats. As many as 150 of them living in the home’s chimney and attic.

WATCH: Saturna Island man turned away from ER after close encounter with bat

Hamel sent her husband to investigate when they first saw bats flying out of the chimney.

“He got up on the chimney and started counting how many were coming out, and he stopped counting at 150,” she told Global News.

Now, Hamel feels like she’s living in a horror film.

READ MORE: B.C. man dies of rabies, first confirmed human death in the province since 2003

A few days ago, she unrolled an awning on her back deck, and said a bat flew out and screeched at her.

“That was really scary,” she said.

“I know it’s just a bat and some people think they’re cute but I am certainly not one of those people.”

The home was inspected before it was purchased, but the inspector didn’t find the bats.

Hamel later called a pest control company to see whether the winged creatures could be removed.

A technician looked in the attic — and sure enough, there they were, tucked away on a wall. They flew off when a light was shined on them.

WATCH: July 16 — B.C. man dies of rabies after coming into contact with bat


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Bats aren’t unnecessarily uncommon in people’s homes, said James Pagé, species at risk and biodiversity program officer at the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF).

“What the bats are doing, they’re looking for a crevice or place to roost,” he told Global News.

“We’ve moved into their existing range, they’ve been here a lot longer than we have.”

Bats are breeding around this time of year, and that means a number of the animals in Hamel’s home could be pups.

All 19 species of bat are also protected under B.C.’s Wildlife Act, and that means they can’t be killed or harassed out of the home.

Bats are threatened by numerous phenomena including white-nose syndrome, which has wiped out “millions of bats in North America,” the CWF said on its website.

READ MORE: Rabies nearly always kills when symptoms show, health officer says after Canadian fatality

Pagé said these animals are key to pest control: “they can eat pretty much their body weight in insects in one single night.”

Hamel could take various actions, such as putting up a mesh covering that allows the bats to fly out but keeps them from going back in, Pagé said.

But that’s a risky move at this time of year — the mother bats could fly out and leave their babies behind.

WATCH: March 15 — Provincial experts ‘concerned’ about Alberta bat populations

Those babies, many of which haven’t learned to fly yet, could try to find another way out. That could mean entering living spaces.

In other words, it could be even worse for a homeowner if one tried to eradicate the bats that way, Pagé said.

Hamel doesn’t want to do that either.

“There still could be pups inside, so I don’t necessarily want to block the hole and then they can’t get out,” she said.

“I don’t know what to do, I’m really sick about it and I’m nervous.”

Like Hamel, Pagé too discovered that his Gatineau, Que. home had bats when he moved in.

He waited until September to ensure the pups could fly, then he set up a one-way door and sealed up all the areas of the home where they had been located.

Pagé has also set up a “bat house,” a small structure set up in a high location where the animals can rest during the day.

Rabies

Hamel is also concerned about the potential for catching rabies, a rare disease that inflames the spinal cord and brain, and that nearly always kills when symptoms show.

A B.C. man died recently after having come into contact with a bat in mid-May.

Bats are the “only reservoir” for rabies in B.C., provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said this week.

READ MORE: Bat colony now part of Saskatoon’s Mayfair neighbourhood

Pagé said the B.C. incident case was “extremely unfortunate,” but also rare — it was the 26th rabies death for a human in Canada since 1924.

“If someone comes into contact with a bat, definitely talk to your health care provider,” he said.

But he added, “the chance of coming into contact with a bat is super low.”

So Hamel is now faced with a choice. She can live with the bats for six weeks, or she can leave home until the animals do.

“I don’t want to be with bats,” she said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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