Tom Clyde: Problems with bats are not easily solved
There’s an old adage that says you can fool all of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Except on Fox News. I’ve learned this week that it holds true for actual birds as well as the bird-brained. My problem seemed simple enough.
I’ve got a bat that is night roosting in the gable of the roof over the deck on my house. From its favorite position, it manages to leave a pile of bat poop and bat table scraps on the patio table every morning. It kind of takes the edge off breakfast. I thought it was a mouse getting up on the table, but the metal legs that lead up to the underside of a glass top, there was no way a mouse could get there. The insect parts are a sure indicator.
Bats have a lobby group that is about as powerful as the NRA. They rave about all the wonderful things that bats do in the world. But they fail to mention bats leaving a pile of poop and insect parts on the table every morning. It would be just fine with me if the bats chose to be wonderful somewhere else. It’s a big world.
I did a little study on the internet about how to discourage bats from night roosting. What I found was piles of pro-bat propaganda, fun facts about bats, building plans for bat houses, and ads for clinics that do rabies treatments. I tried looking at sites aimed more at the extermination side of things. For slightly more than a mortgage payment, there are companies that will come out and spray the house with some plutonium-based bat repellant every month. They can get bats out of your attic — and if you’ve ever experienced that, you would pay anything to make it end. The courthouse in Coalville had bats in the attic several years ago, and there was serious discussion about burning the building down.
I wasn’t finding anything very useful. Wrapping the house in aluminum foil was one helpful tip. One site suggested putting a plastic owl near the location, because bats don’t like owls. Fun fact: some owls can snatch bats out of the air, mid-flight. I’ve had mixed success with the plastic owl before. I tried one to keep the magpies out of the dog’s food because the dog is too busy sleeping, next to the bowl, to chase magpies out of his food. The magpies actually pooped on the head of the plastic owl, and the dog. Don’t mess around with magpies. On the other hand, I had a woodpecker that was determined to strip the siding off the house. I stuck a plastic owl on a steel fence post, and the woodpecker moved on.
The instructions with the owls say to move them every couple of days to put up a more convincing display of owl-ness. Mine has been stuck on the same t-post driven into the lawn for several years, and the woodpeckers still fall for it. I suspect they have some brain damage as a result of too many concussions from pecking on the brick chimney.
I bought a new plastic owl and built a nice little bracket to give it a perch on the wall. With it all assembled, I climbed up the ladder and screwed it to the wall. Just to be on the safe side, I bought a jug of very expensive pepper spray that is supposed to keep dogs, deer and other critters out of the garden, and sprayed that all over wall. Victory was assured.
The next morning, it was clear that the bats had made their usual trip, flying around and packing cheek like a squirrel, then eating and pooping directly above the patio table. Neither the pepper spray nor the owl had any effect at all on the bats.
The hummingbirds, on the other hand, went into panic mode. For a week, they flew by the feeders, slowed slightly before taking notice of the owl perched on the wall above them, and took off. For days, they tested the situation, cowering in the trees, watching for any response from the deadly plastic predator lurking in the shadows.
And then one day, the hummingbirds decided the owl was a bluff, and came back to the feeders by the dozen. It’s like they took a vote, and decided they had lived under the oppression of the plastic owl for long enough. You can only fool a flock of hummingbirds some of the time. Give me sugar water or give me death!
But the bats are still here. I suppose there’s no reason why the patio table can’t be on the other end of the deck…
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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After a pipe burst in her home, followed by her furnace going out, columnist Teri Orr is grateful to be safe, warm and dry. And amid the global pandemic, she understands she is one of the lucky ones.