Sunday, July 21st 2019, 1:30 pm - This B.C. family is dealing with a lot of unwanted roommates.
Hundreds of bats are making for an unwelcome 'welcome wagon' for one Chilliwack, B.C., family.
Upon moving into their new home, the Hamel family discovered the previous occupants -- lots of them -- were still in residence in the home's chimney and attic. Michelle Hamel told Global News her husband "stopped counting at 150" as he watched the bats fly out of the chimney.
"It's like living in a horror film," Hamel told Global.
And the credits on that film aren't likely to roll anytime soon. All of British Columbia's 16 species of bats are protected under the province's Wildlife Act, and that means the Hamel family might be stuck with their winged roommates.
Under the BC Wildlife Act it is illegal to physically remove or "harass" bats to make them leave. The only option for evicting the unwanted animals is exclusion -- making the roost inaccessible -- and that isn't permitted between May 1 and September 1, the time considered the 'maternity season' when pups are born and too small to leave the roost.
"Sealing the roost before September 1st (even after waiting for bats to fly out at night) can trap bats inside," say the Community Bat Project of BC. "This method is not only a contravention of the BC Wildlife Act, but may also cause homeowners considerable grief." Trapping the bats in the roost may force them to find other exits, following wiring and piping pathways, or working their way into living spaces. "Some meet dead ends until they finally die of dehydration and the carcasses are trapped within the walls or floors."
A B.C. man recently died from rabies after contact with a bat, raising Hamel's concerns over the house guests. While bats are a known reservoir for rabies in B.C., the Community Bat Project says the danger to humans is very low.
"Rabies is a serious illness that can be fatal; nevertheless, contracting rabies from a bat is extremely rare," says the project's website, adding that, prior to last week's case, only five people had died from rabies in Canada. Four of those deaths followed exposure to bats.
Officials advise against ever handling a bat with bare hands.