Bat population peaks in August

They've been called "rats with wings" -- the flying critters with sharp teeth that conjure up images of vampires and other horror.

So, with a big bat population this August, many people are getting a little queasy. But there is help.

The most common bats in Southern New England are brown bats -- large adults and small babies -- that are keeping the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on its toes and the Rhode Island Department of Health busy.

On Tuesday alone, after the three-day holiday weekend, 28 bats were processed, and another 12 Wednesday, and 8 more on Thursday.

Dr. James McDonald with the Department of Health said August is the peak month every year, adding that the department had 180 bats come in for evaluation last year. Five were positive for rabies.

So far this August, 90 bats have been brought in, so that number is about on par with 2012. Changing weather is the cause, and the newborn bats are taking flight.

At a home in Scituate, NBC 10 tagged along with Big Blue Bug Solutions to see how it handles the problem. Bats were confirmed by droppings on an outside propane gas tank and crevices by the chimney.

Rich Autieri is a wildlife specialist with the company. He said sealing up the area outside the house is key, because any spot that has a gap one-quarter inch or bigger, bats can get in.

"And then we're installing what we call an exclusion device. Basically, it's a one-way door for the bats to leave and they're not allowed to reenter," Autieri said.

This information might freak you out. If you find a bat in your house when you wake up, there's a chance you could have been bitten in your sleep.

"Bats have very small teeth, and you may not even know you were bitten by a bat. So, that's something that we know happens. It doesn't happen often. And keep in mind, if it did happen, most bats are negative for rabies. But if you do have the bat, we'd like to test it," McDonald said.

One NBC 10 viewer from Warwick, who did not want to be identified, woke up with his family to find two bats inside the house. They called the DEM, which picked up the bats and took them to the Department of Health.

"If that bat isn't captured or somehow eludes the homeowner, then someone's been exposed to rabies and they need to be evaluated to see if they need post-exposure rabies vaccine," McDonald said.

If you find bats in your house in Rhode Island, first call your local animal control office, then call the DEM at 401-222-3070. After that, call your local pest control.

The Rhode Island Department of Health has a website with everything about bats and the potential for rabies.

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Department of Health late Thursday afternoon confirmed those bats found at that Warwick family's house were negative for rabies.

There has not been a human rabies death in Rhode Island since 1940.